A Royal Australian Air Force C-17 pilot and the owner of a helicopter training business have been recognised at the 2014 Telstra Queensland Business Women’s awards.
Squadron Leader Samantha Freebairn, who is based at Amberley, took out the business innovation award.
Freebairn was the RAAF’s first female pilot to return to operational flying after having a baby and the founder of a graduate pilot scheme that encouraged more women to apply for pilot training.
The judges said the program, which was now part of Griffith University’s aviation course, had substantially increased rates of recruitment.
Freebairn said she started the project, which had the acronym Project WINTER (women in non-traditional employment roles) because “it is not OK to sit and wait for what the UN women currently project as 170 years that is required for women to achieve equality in this country”.
“The latest figures for Air Force show that within the next two years we will double women pilot numbers when they have remained stagnant for the last 30 years,” Freebairn said when she accepted the award in Brisbane on September 30.
“Additionally, there has been 100 per cent retention of women’s pilots who are returning to operational flying duties post motherhood when in the past there had been zero.”
Separately, the chief executive of helicopter training company Becker Helicopter Services Jan Becker won the Queensland business owner award.
The judges described Becker, who is a qualified helicopter commerical pilot, as an “exemplar of a business owner and a model of lifelong learning”.
“She demonstrates a unique balance of leadership through innovation coupled with the desire to give back to the international community,” the judges said.
Becker, who recently visited Tanzania to train midwives and planned to become a neonatal specialist resuscitation instructor, encouraged more women to become helicopter pilots.
The state-based winners proceed to the national finals to be held in Melbourne on November 26.