From air pressure changes and cramped quarters to bumpy rides and delays, airplane travel can by trying — so just imagine what it's like for the pilots who deal with it every single day. It’s about time we start thanking these real heroes behind our three-day weekends, destination bachelorette parties, and of course, journeys home. It’s no small responsibility and no easy feat. What can make the job even more difficult is the fact that just 6 percent of pilots are women, meaning females in the field face both a lack of visibility and arbitrary roadblocks like gender bias.
That's why Bustle has partnered with Olay to shine a spotlight on females who are breaking down barriers, powering through adversity, and succeeding in historically male-dominated fields.
Eser Aksan is a glowing example of such a pioneer, conquering an industry that is 94 percent male. The 33-year-old aviation professional living in Istanbul, Turkey has been a pilot for more than seven years and has been flying commercial jets for over four years. Despite being the only female among the 13 members of her flight school class, Aksan fiercely pursued her childhood dream. Today, she is not only proving that women can pursue whatever career they want, but she's also acting as a role model for future female aviation professionals.
Below, Aksan shares what a week in the life of a female pilot is really like.
"I had my annual license proficiency check in the Flight Simulator. The Simulator is also called the ‘sweatbox’ among pilots: We practice for emergency situations like engine fires, depressurization, and more. It’s good to prepare for these types of situations, because every approach and landing has its challenges. While prepping for high-pressure situations can be strenuous, I love my job, because it enables me to see and explore new places."
Miles Traveled: 0; Total Flight Time: 04:00 [in Simulator]
"I had a day off, and it felt especially sweet and relaxing after The Simulator session. The hours [of a pilot] can be long, so I really appreciate my downtime. I go to the gym, and afterwards, I pamper my skin."
Miles Traveled: 0; Total Flight Time: 00:00
"I piloted a red-eye flight to Doha [airport in Qatar]. We departed late in the evening and arrived back to our base airport the next morning, totaling over eight hours of flight. We had a great crew, and everything went smoothly."
Miles Traveled: 3,286; Total Flight Time: 08:11
"I’m off [of work] again! Flying is definitely rough on my skin. After a night flight, it’s always important for me to rehydrate my skin with serums, moisturizers, and eye creams (lack of sleep = dark circles and puffiness).
While flying can be a tough profession at times, it’s an incredibly rewarding career. It’s so empowering when women step up to me or the flight crew to tell us they are proud that a woman is flying the plane they're on."
Miles Traveled: 0; Total Flight Time: 00:00
"I flew to London [Heathrow], then [London] Stansted, and back with a passenger flight to Bodrum [airport in Turkey]. To London, it took three hours 47 minutes, and back was 3 hours 45 minutes. We had to hurry to passport control to catch our passenger flight to Bodrum.
Sometimes on passenger flights, people mistake me for a member of the cabin crew and ask me to help with their bags. I try to be polite and hand over the ask to our cabin crew.
What Olay is doing to highlight the small percentage of female pilots is so important. We need to ask ourselves, why is it that being a female cabin crew member is normal, but being a female pilot is not? Women are equally qualified, strong, smart, and analytical: So why are the numbers still just six percent female to 94 percent male?"
Miles Traveled: 2,820; Total Flight Time: 07:32
"I had a nice, relaxing day at the Turkish Riviera before an evening flight to Moscow. I didn't wear any makeup because it was very hot (like, 90 degrees!). In the evening, we flew to Moscow before returning to Bodrum — three hours 22 minutes there, and 3 hours 9 minutes back."
Miles traveled: 2,722; Total Flight Time: 07:02
"I normally have a passenger flight back to Istanbul, but I had the day off and decided to stay another day in Bodrum to visit my mom, who is staying there during the summer.
I’m so happy to be living out my childhood dream of being a pilot and hope I can encourage other women to follow in my footsteps. My best advice for young girls considering a career in aviation? Don’t doubt yourself. Don’t think of yourself as less worthy just because you’re underrepresented."
Total Weekly Miles Traveled: 8,828; Total Weekly Flight Time: 26:45
This post is sponsored by Olay.