Denise Luppnow from Comair. Photo: Supplied

Tell us a bit more about yourself: 

My name Denise Luppnow.  I am 33 years old. I grew up on mostly mine villages in Mpumalanga. My parents were employed in the Coal mine industry.  
I attended school in Witbank now known as Emalahleni. I matriculated in 2002. I am married to Graham Luppnow an Air Traffic Controller also based in Johannesburg at OR Tambo International airport. I was first employed as an Instructor at Wonderboom airport in Pretoria. I then got a wonderful break to fly corporate for a big mining company for 3 years and then I moved to Comair LTD in 2010.

What does your job entail?

I am employed as a First Officer at Comair Ltd. I fly the Boeing 737 on both the Kulula and British Airways brands.

Take us through your day. When does it begin? When does it end? How many trips to you do? how long does your working day last?

Flight crew sign on for their duty day 01:20 before the first flight they are scheduled for at our Operations building in Kempton Park.
There we will go through the all the planning and meet up with the whole crew. We are then transported to the airport and start our preparation for the flight before we start with boarding of the passengers. We receive a roster a month in advance and the times and flights we do is very variable. There is no two days the same. We can do anything from a single flight to four flights a day or a multiple day pairing where we stay over in Cape town, Port Elizabeth or Durban. Our days can start as early as 04:45 in the morning and some days only end at around midnight.

What are some of the challenges you face in completing your duties?

We deal with quite a few challenges in order to get the job done. It could be related to weather, passengers, ground supporting services etc. The aim is always safety first and off course on time departures.

Are  some of these challenges  related to your gender? 

I feel that society has come a long way and as females we can operate in the Aviation industry just as our male counterparts can. In a diverse country like ours with so many cultures its always necessary to operate with consideration and respect towards others.

         Denise Luppnow. Photo: Supplied 

 Why did you decide to be a pilot?

I decided to become a pilot because it I always saw myself being on the move and not be confined to a desk. I really cannot think of any better way than travelling around in an airliner and having the opportunity so see our beautiful country for the sky on a daily basis.

Was this always your dream?

Becoming a Pilot only occurred to me in my high school years and then I really worked hard to make the dream a reality.

What kind of training did you go through?

My training towards my Pilot license was privately funded. I went through the normal steps. I started with it in 2001.  First you do a Private Pilot license then the Commercial Pilot license and finally the Airline Transport pilot license. I also completed and Instructors Rating.

How long did it take? 

The training is based on your own individual pace. It typically takes around 2 years to complete the Commercial Pilot license. I started in 2001 and my first flying job was in 2004.

From the outside, the industry looks predominantly male. Is this a fair reflection? How do we ''level'' the playing fields? i.e. get other young women who are interested to get working in the airline industry? 

It might appear that the Aviation industry is male dominated but I can definably testify that women are moving into the Industry. There is quite a lot of Women pilots out there and even the Aviation engineering position are starting to be filled with ladies. The Industry doesn’t come without its challenges and it’s a bit of fine balancing art to have a family and children at home and work the odd hours that we do. I take my proverbial hat off to the ladies that manage that.


        Denise in flight. Photo: Supplied