Female Pilots

Female “Firsts” in the Air Force

Pilots

The first female Royal Australian Air Force pilots were Flight Lieutenant Robyn Williams and Officer Cadet Deborah Hicks. Both graduated from the same flying course (No 144 PLTCSE) on 30 June 1988.

Officer Cadet Hicks flew Mystere VIP aircraft at No 34 SQN and discharged in 1994.

Flight Lieutenant Williams went on to qualify as a flying instructor in 1992 before undergoing test pilot training in the UK. After serving with the Aircraft Research and Development Unit, she was promoted to Squadron Leader and posted to the US for five years. There she led the resident Air Force project team taking delivery of new C-130J Hercules. Promoted to Wing Commander in March 2000, she returned to Australia later that year to manage the C-130J program office.

Engineers

The first female engineer is less clear. On 1 February 1978, the Air Force appointed its first female engineering student, Pilot Officer Margaret Maxwell. It appears that she had already completed two years of tertiary education as an engineer before enlisting, because in 1980 she was posted to an Aeronautical Engineering position.

On 21 August 1979, the Air Force appointed Flying Officer Rosalea Hotchkies as our first qualified engineer. She was a direct entry Radar Engineer.

Female Pilots

There are no restrictions on employment of females in the Air Force, including all pilot positions.

As at April 2017, there were over 800 pilots in the permanent Air Force, 36 of whom were women (which equates to around 4.3.%).

Although women are eligible to fly all aircraft in the Air Force, there are currently no female fighter pilots. However, we do have females currently undergoing fast-jet training. Women are successfully flying fighter jets in the United States, France, Turkey, Israel and other nations, and Air Force actively encourages women to apply to fly fighter jets in Australia.

Air Force has implemented several programs to assist women who choose a pilot career. Entry to the Graduate Pilot Scheme is open to women who are currently undertaking a Bachelor of Aviation (BAv). Once qualified, women pilots are able to access the Flying Females Mentoring Network.

Men and women are required to undergo the same basic fitness tests to become a pilot; however the standards are different for age and gender. For some roles, the requirement cannot be adjusted for safety reasons.

Female aircrew

Women are eligible to fly as aircrew on all aircraft or control aircraft in the Air Force.

As at February 2017, there are 233 female aircrew and aircraft controllers in the Air Force, with another 88 undergoing training. This includes Officer Aviation jobs such as:

  • Pilots;

  • Air Combat Officers (Mission Aircrew and Ground Controllers); and

  • Air Traffic Controllers.

It also includes Airmen Aircrew jobs such as:

  • Airborne Electronic Analysts;

  • Crew Attendants; and

  • Loadmasters.

Air Force's commitment to improving gender diversity is demonstrated through a comprehensive Gender Diversity Strategy. Initiatives include mentoring for female members, strategies for improved flexible working arrangements, and support for new parents.

Australian Women's Pilot Association membership

We pay for our female pilots to be members of the Australian Women's Pilot Association. This sponsorship provides an invaluable mentoring and professional development opportunity for female Air Force pilots to engage with other female pilots outside the military network.

CAF Scholarships

Each year the Chief of Air Force awards two scholarships to young women under the age of 24. The scholarship is designed to assist young women in the costs of pursuing a career in aviation.