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Aer Lingus' first female pilot retires after 33 years

24th June 2010 Print

Captain Grainne Cronin is leaving Aer Lingus after 33 years of loyal service. 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.

Of the experience, Grainne says: "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. "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 RTE's The Late Late Show.

On 2nd August 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.

Captain Davina Pratt, Aer Lingus Chief Pilot and Director of Flight Operations said: "We wish to thank Grainne for her loyal service to Aer Lingus and her dedication over the past 33 years. As the first female pilot for Aer Lingus, Grainne paved the way for many other women who went on to pursue careers as pilots."