Rachel Gilmour says she still “can’t believe her luck” when she increases the engine power in her passenger aircraft and rises above the clouds.

The 24-year-old from Largs is one of only around 4.7 per cent of women pilots in the UK ,where numbers are amongst the lowest in the world.

While she firmly believes there is “no such thing” as a job for a man or a woman anymore, her career choice still elicits some surprised reactions from the public. She has been mistaken for cabin crew twice.

India takes the lead for the number of female pilots in the world, with roughly 12.4%, according to figures published in 2021.
Ireland was next with 9.9% but the UK trails behind with just 4.7%.

Ms Gilmour is a recent graduate of Tayside Aviation, a flight training and aircraft service company based at Dundee and is now a commercial pilot with Loganair, taking flights from Aberdeen, the airline’s busiest base, all over the UK and overseas to cities including Oslo.

She was inspired by her dad, Cameron, an engineer, who had also dreamed of being a pilot, but poor eyesight ruled him out of pursuing a career in aviation.

“At that time things were a bit stricter. I think you needed to have 20/20 vision without glasses, “ she said.

“I also wear glasses. He was definitely my inspiration.


“I never really had a Plan B beyond being a pilot.”

“There were actually five girls who started the course at Tayside Aviation with me, and maybe 20 boys, which is probably more girls than people would expect.

READ MORE: Thousands apply for train driver jobs with Scotland's nationalised railway 

“Inevitably, there’s been the odd comment or surprise from people that I am a commercial pilot,” she added.

“It’s mainly older people. I think the older generation perhaps still don’t think that women should be doing this and probably at my age as well. 

“People don’t expect to see a woman in her 20s doing what I do.”

“Sometimes when I walk through the airport, I’ll see people looking at me because they probably haven’t seen a female pilot before. 

“There’s no such thing as a ‘man’s job’. If you work hard, you can do anything you want.”

She says the first time she took off after completing her training in a simulator was, “the best day of my life”.

She said: “You take off and do a loop of the sky and land and do it again.
“I don’t think anything could top that in my flying career. The feeling of the power. 

“When I was going down the runway, it was so fast and I thought, I can’t even believe this is my life.”

READ MORE: Scotrail bid to encourage more female drivers into job

She says she never gets nervous on flights, adding: “The worst part is being on the ground because it’s so busy and lots of things are outwith your control.

“In the air, we are in control of everything. 

“Sometimes when I’m up there, I pinch myself because I can’t believe this is my job.

“The view from the sky in the cockpit, there is nothing it. 

“It can be cloudy but as soon as you are above the clouds, it’s sunny.”
Tayside Aviation say they are working hard to encourage more girls to consider a career in aviation.

Last year, the school partnered with Celtic FC Women’s team to promote gender diversity across both sectors. 

READ MORE: Female footballers still struggle for equality says Rose Reilly 

Tony Banks, chairman of Tayside Aviation, said: “On International Women’s Day, it’s more important than ever to highlight fantastic success stories, like Rachel’s, that fly the flag for women working in the aviation sector. 

“However, more needs to be done to promote gender equality in the aviation sector, and we hope Rachel’s story will inspire some more women.”

A train operator announced yesterday that a mural commemorating one of the UK’s first female train drivers will remain in place at London Euston station as part of a campaign to encourage more women into the job.

Glasgow-born Karen Harrison applied to British rail as a teenager in 1977 under the name K Harrison and was interviewed under the belief that she was a young man.

After becoming a fully-qualified train driver in 1979, she campaigned heavily to improve life for women on and off the tracks, and eventually retired to study law at Oxford University.

The mural was due to be on display until the end of the West Coast operator’s innovative driver recruitment push, a campaign that has seen record numbers of applicants who are women but will now be permanent.

More than 1,500 applications from women were received, all hoping to secure one of the 100-120 new driver roles with Avanti West Coast.

Daisy Hawker Wallace, Head of PR at the operator said: “ Women like me would not have senior positions in rail, if it were not for Karen’s achievements. 

“It’s easy to forget how hard this would have been in the 1970s, but the female experience then was quite different to what it is today.

"By working with Network Rail to ensure the longevity of this mural, not only are we commemorating her legacy, we want to inspire other women to work in rail.”