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Aviator’s Day: is it still worth fulfilling a childhood dream?

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Celebrated on October 23, 85 years ago, the date brings a reflection on what was and what a career has in store in this second decade of the 21st century 

For 85 years, on October 23, Aviator’s Day has been celebrated in Brazil. The decree signed in 1936 is based on the date of the first flight of an airplane. On the same date, in 1906, the Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont performed in Paris, France, the feat of lifting a heavier-than-air device from the ground. He piloted the 14-Bis. Since then, obviously, there has been a lot of innovation, and even a plane without a pilot has been talked about.

A reality, however, still distant in the evaluation of those who work in the segment for more than 25 years. “This world of pilotless aircraft is here, but this is not the end of pilot-in-control aircraft. There is a lot of future for this profession”, says the helicopter pilot and director of operations at Helisul Aviação, Robinson Bordin, who has worked for the airline services company for two decades.

Bordin has one foot in the past and the other in the future of aviation, experiencing and contributing to much of the evolution of the segment within Helisul. Since 2000, he has held various positions, from office boy, to ramp assistant and maintenance mechanic assistant. Qualified to work as a commercial pilot, he was first co-pilot and then commander in aircraft operations for the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) at the service of Helisul, and helicopter commander at the Iguaçu Falls, on the Brazil-Argentina border and Rio de Janeiro on scenic flights. 

In recent years, he has worked with specialized air service operations, such as firefighting, inspection of transmission lines, aerial surveys, external cargo, etc. Experienced in the area, in 2011 he assumed the leadership of external cargo at Helisul. “I improved myself and these operations grew within the company. Requests for training started to grow and we became a reference in Brazil in the area of long line external cargo, which is not easily found in the country”, reveals Bordin.

After all this trajectory, Bordin experienced great evolutions in aviation, especially in the last five years. “ANAC brought significant changes. What used to be no more than unofficial rules, so to speak, and which left the sector in limbo, are now much more documented and we can base ourselves on them. It’s much more regulated and that improved our work a lot”, evaluates the pilot.

The essence of the aviator, in turn, remains the same, he says, but with more skills. “The pilots who come there need to have a keen eye, always looking ahead, focused on innovations and new technologies, to always be one step ahead and not run the risk of missing out on good career opportunities. The secret is to know the past of aviation, analyze the present and project the future.”

Present and future

Aviation, which had been expanding until the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in 2019, is in a movement to resume activities in this final stretch of 2021. The sector went through a few months of pause in part of the road network, at the time that carried out important actions against the impacts of the pandemic, such as aiding the repatriation of Brazilians and permission to transport dangerous cargo, such as oxygen cylinders.

In this new takeoff, one of the main challenges for the future is gender equality in the airline industry, with the definitive break with the paradigm that professions in the industry, such as the aviator pilot, is a male career, just as it is in the categories of mechanic and dispatcher. In aviation, there are far more women than men on flight attendant teams alone.

The expansion of the number of women in aviation was even one of the topics addressed at AirConnect 2021, which brings together the air transport ecosystem, held in September. “In the last decade, there has been a huge increase. Despite still being a low number, it is expanding”, said the Personnel Superintendent of the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC), Mariana Altoé.

According to ANAC, of the total of 967 commercial pilot licenses issued in 2019, 52 were for women (5.4%). A survey from the previous year carried out by the Agency points out that 3% of the total number of Brazilian pilots is made up of women: there are almost 1,500 female professionals compared to 46,500 male.

For more female hands in charge

Caroline Luane Ferreira, 27, from Curitiba, is one of the characters ready for this future with more women in command of aircraft. She graduated from the Faculty of Aeronautical Sciences in 2012, in the capital of Paraná, and, in 2020, completed the minimum flight hours to earn the license. She has been a collaborator at Helisul for six and a half years, working in the operations area.

With the first 200 hours of flight under her belt, she is waiting for the opportunity to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a commercial pilot. “Since I was 12 I decided that I wanted this, I wanted contact with aviation people”, she says. Being a woman, however, Caroline felt that she would have an opportunity in aviation only if she was in the position of a flight attendant.

It was the determination of another woman – like pioneers like Thereza de Marzo, the first woman to obtain a license as an aviator pilot, Anésia Pinheiro Machado, Ada Rogato and Lucy Lúpia Balthazar – that made Caroline not change her idea of transporting people from side to side on board an aircraft.

“I met a woman who was taking a pilot course and that fascinated me. I thought: ‘Ah, I can be a pilot! Since I can, I want to be’.” The young aviator understands that the challenge is still immense, but she perceives the evolution in the aviation segment, including in the area in which she wants to make a career.

“My goal is to be a passenger pilot in the future. In this area, commercial pilot, I believe this prejudice has ended, as well as in the air taxi sector. Until recently there were companies that did not hire women and today they do. is more opposed to hiring a woman. I see that it is very complicated.”

Caroline guarantees that she is prepared to help destigmatize the profession – which does not depend on technical or legal obstacles, since the requirements for obtaining pilot licenses do not involve gender distinction. “I can say that we manage to do more things at the same time, this is a positive factor for women. Besides, I don’t see any difference”, says the pilot.