independent

Tuesday 16 October 2018

History-making pilot disembarks

Credit: Pic courtesy RTE News
Credit: Pic courtesy RTE News
Credit: Pic courtesy RTE News

John MANNING

A LITTLE bit of history flew into the skies above Dublin Airport last week as the country's first female pilot took her last flight. Captain Grainne Cronin from Malahide is leaving Aer Lingus after 33 years of loyal service, and last week she embarked on her final flight before her retirement from a long and successful career as a history-making pilot.

Grainne's career commenced in 1977 when she became the first female pilot at Aer Lingus. Her first flight was in January 1978, piloting a Boeing 737 aircraft. Grainne remembers her first flight clearly. She said: 'It wasn't easy, I have to say, entering such a male-dominated arena but Aer Lingus were very forward thinking for the time, they were the second airline in Europe, after SAS, to introduce female pilots.

British Airways did not hire any female pilots for at least a further seven or eight years. In 1978 and 1979, two more female pilots joined and we flew the flag for the female race for the next 10 years.'

Flying clearly runs in this family, as Grainne is the daughter of retired Aer Lingus Captain Felim Cronin, and her sister, Caroline, is also a commercial pilot.

Grainne's two daughters, Alana and Louisa Johnston, both hold private pilot's licences and Louisa has recently completed her training as a commercial pilot. She said: 'My husband is also a pilot, so ours was quite a chaotic household juggling long-haul flying schedules with the school run.

Despite the chaos of balancing her flying career with family life, Grainne excelled at Aer Lingus and went on to become a captain operating the Shorts 360 aircraft.

In 1988, having successfully received her command, Grainne appeared on RTÉ's The Late Late Show. On August 2nd 1988, the first all-female Aer Lingus crew operated a flight from Dublin to Shannon with Grainne in command and First Officer Elaine Egan on board the airline's landmark flight.

To mark the historic last flight, Captain Elaine Egan and First Officer Shelley Gahan also flew with Grainne, as she completed her final flight as an Aer Lingus Captain on an Airbus A330 aircraft, operating flight EI 137 from Dublin to Boston.

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