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Kate, 26, flying high as she becomes youngest commercial airline captain

Published 26/09/2016

Kate McWilliams, who is believed to have become the world's youngest ever commercial airline captain at just 26 years old (easyJet/PA)
Kate McWilliams, who is believed to have become the world's youngest ever commercial airline captain at just 26 years old (easyJet/PA)

A British woman is believed to have become the world's youngest ever commercial airline captain at just 26 years old, easyJet said.

Kate McWilliams, originally from Carlisle, told the Press Association she gets quizzed about her age by cabin crew and passengers almost every day and most are "pleasantly surprised and impressed" when she tells them her age.

She began flying aged 13 in the air cadets before embarking on a training programme at CTC Aviation in Southampton on her 19th birthday.

In May 2011 s he joined easyJet as a first officer and recently took up the rank of captain after passing the airline's command course.

An easyJet spokeswoman said the Luton-based airline has carried out research which leads it to believe she is the youngest commercial airline captain in the world.

Miss McWilliams said: " Personally I don't think my age matters. I've been through the same training and passed the same command course as every other captain so I've proven myself capable regardless of my age.

"I do now get asked how old I am on an almost daily basis which didn't used to happen when I was a first officer.

"Usually that question comes from the cabin crew but sometimes passengers ask too.

"When I tell them I'm 26, most people are pleasantly surprised and impressed with my achievement at such a young age."

Miss McWilliams lives in Reigate, Surrey, and is based at Gatwick Airport.

She flies Airbus A319 and A320 planes to around 100 destinations, such as Reykjavik, Tel Aviv and Marrakesh.

"With Gatwick having such an extensive route network my roster is very varied so I rarely fly to the same place twice in the same month," she said. "That keeps things interesting."

Miss McWilliams recalled that when she was growing up she "never even thought it could be an option" to become a commercial pilot, saying that she " didn't know any I could ask for advice".

But since she began training she has "never looked back".

She added: " I love being a commercial pilot for easyJet, and I am proud that I have now achieved my ambition of becoming a captain."

Just 5% of commercial pilots are female and last year easyJet announced an initiative to double the proportion of female new entrants to 12% over two years.

Julie Westhorp, chairwoman of the British Women Pilots' Association (BWPA), said she hopes Miss McWilliams' progression inspires more women to consider pursuing a career in aviation.

She went on: " Both the BWPA and easyJet are aware of the importance of visible role models for girls and young women when making career choices and continue to work together to encourage young women to consider a pilot career.

"Kate's achievement clearly demonstrates to other young women that it is possible to succeed as a pilot in commercial aviation.

"We wish Kate continuing success in her career and are delighted that she is now an excellent role model for other females."

Last week Miss McWilliams flew from Gatwick to Malta alongside Luke Elsworth, who earlier this year became the UK's youngest pilot at 19 years old.

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