Lifestyle

1979 - Jamaica's First Female Commercial Jet Airline Pilot

Style Observer

Sunday, March 21, 2010    

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In 1979 a Jamaican, Maria Ziadie, became one of the first women in the Western hemisphere to become a commercial jet airline pilot when she was hired by Air Jamaica 1968 Ltd as a B727 Second Officer.

According to the records of statistics compiled by ISWAP (International Society of Women Airline Pilots), Jamaica was the fourth country in the Western hemisphere and the 13th in the world to hire women as airline pilots. (India -1951, Bulgaria - 1953, Italy - 1967, Scandinavia - 1969, Belgium - 1971, USA -1973, Canada -1973, Mexico - 1975, France -1975, Jordan-1975, Ireland -1977, Netherlands - 1978).

Ziadie-Haddad shared with SO her early interests in flying and her first "'familiarisation' flight, at five years old, in a Cessna 172 flown by Ken Rutter". Ziadie's passion for flying was further piqued whilst working as a flight attendant with Air Jamaica.

Ziadie Haddad signed up for the Private Pilot Course with Wings Jamaica Ltd in March 1975. Wings was owned and operated then by Carl and Earsly Barnett. In 1952, Mrs B, an American, became Jamaica's first female pilot and flight instructor. She held the Commercial Licence #1 and Mr Barnett #2. In March 1975, 'Mrs B' passed on. That same year, Yola Cain, a Jamaican, received her commercial license and became the first Jamaican woman to obtain the Jamaican Commercial Licence and Instructor rating. Yola joined the Jamaica Defence Force on August, 11, 1976 and became the first female pilot with the JDF. She would later on fly for TransJamaica Ltd becoming their first woman pilot in the early 80s). In July 1977, Johanna Lewin-Belnavis joined the JDF as the second woman pilot.

Ziadie-Haddad was able to continue her studies thanks to encouragement and support from her colleagues, her family, the assistance of the GOJ Women's Bureau, the Students' Loan Bureau, and study leave from Air Jamaica.

Ziadie-Haddad, worked part-time with Rutair Ltd and Wings Jamaica, (both at Tinson Pen Aerodrome), as an instructor before joining Air Jamaica as a Boeing 727 Second Officer.

Nicola Hacker was the second woman to be hired, in September 1987, also as a B727 S/O.

Shortly thereafter, another Jamaican, Michele Yap, was promoted to Captain on the regional turboprop Twin Otter (DHC6) at LIAT (Leeward Island Air Transport) in 1988, and she also formed part of a LIAT all-female crew in 1989. Michele had joined LIAT in July 1985, flying as Twin Otter F/O for nine months, then as HS 748 "Avro" F/O, for two years, then back on the Twin Otter as a Captain for 13 months.

The next batch of women was hired on September 4, 1989 by Air Jamaica - A300 S/O's - Marlene Smith and Michele Yap B727 S/O - Melvina McMaster and Carolyn Vincent.

On July 1, 1996, Maria checked out as B727 Captain on Flight 034 from FLL-MBJ-KIN with Captain Enrique Acevedo. The other crew members were: S/O Wayne Wynter, Purser Lorna Wesley, Flight Attendants Lisa Wood, Jerome Brown, Sherene Vassell and Heather Chambers. On July 2, 1996, Captain Maria Ziadie-Haddad commanded her first B727 flight on Air Jamaica 031 from Kingston to Montego Bay and Fort Lauderdale with F/O Cervantes and S/O Nick Wiltshire. In January 1997, Capt Haddad transitioned to the Airbus A320 fleet. Durba Banerjee of Indian Airlines was the first A320 Captain in the mid-90s.

Helen Otway- Gooden, who was hired on November 17, 1997, as a B727 B727 S/O became Air J's seventh female pilot. She was previously employed to Air Jamaica Express as a Dash 8 Captain.

Air Jamaica's first all female flight (on an A320) took place in December 1997 (JM 039 KIN-FLL). The A320 Crew members were Capt Haddad, First Officer Melvina 'Debbie' Anderson, Purser Nadene Alexander, Flight Attendants Lisbeth Allen, Keisha Grant, and Judith Pryce. For the A320, this was said to be the second such flight in the world and the first in the Western hemisphere.

Other female pilots include: Heather MacKay October, 17 2000) as well as Lisa Elliott and Lisa Acevedo, who were hired on September 12, 2001.

o Air Jamaica's second female Captain, Marlene Smith, checked out as an A320 Captain on May 31, 2002 by Captain Patrick Cousins. Her first flight as Captain was on June 1, 2002 with F/O Patrick Barnes from MBJ - PHL on an A321.

o F/Os A320 Alice Tabois and Hana Lloyd, who were hired on August 19, 2002.

o Debbie Bayley-Hay and Michele Yap were promoted to Captain in 2003; and Helen promoted to A320 Captain on Sept, 4, 2004.

Today, Maria, Marlene, Michele, Heather, Lisa (Elliott) and Alice are still actively flying with Air Jamaica and hope to remain in commercial aviation in Jamaica.

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