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RAAF’s 2FTS hosts female pilot forum

written by australianaviation.com.au | September 22, 2016

Former Female Graduates of No. 2 Flight Training School pose for a group photo with a PC-9 Aircraft
2FTS woman pilot graduates who took part in the Female Graduates Forum. (Defence)

No 2 Flying Training School (2FTS) has marked the graduation of the 100th pilots course since the first RAAF women pilots gained their ‘wings’ in 1988 with a Female Graduates Forum.

The inaugural two-day event held at RAAF Base Pearce early this month saw current and former Air Force and Navy women pilots discuss their experiences.

“The objective of the forum was to identify the barriers to female peak performance at 2FTS and find solutions to remove those barriers,” 2FTS commanding officer WGCDR David Strong told Air Force News.

Forum participants included Robyn Williams and Deb Jeppesen (nee Hicks), the first Air Force women pilots, who graduated from 144 Pilots Course, as well as 79 Squadron Hawk 127 instructor pilot FLTLT Sue Freeman, a lateral recruit from the Royal Air Force who has flown Tornado fast jets on operations over Iraq.

“Having a look at the statistics of 2FTS and the fact we still have a higher pass rate for males, and with the emphasis from senior leadership on diversity and capability, we thought it was important to do something about the way we do business,” FLTLT Belinda Beatty told Air Force News of the forum.


“We thought we would bring back the people most affected by this – the women themselves – and get their opinion on it.”

The event coincided with the graduation of 244 Pilots Course. Of the 15 graduates of the course, four were women (three from the RAAF and one from the RNZAF).

As of January 2016 of the over 800 pilots in the RAAF just 29 (or less than four per cent) were women.

First RAAF women pilots
Officer Cadet Deborah Hicks and FLTLT Robyn Williams graduated as the RAAF’s first female pilots on June 30 1988. (Defence)

More broadly the issue of female under-representation and diversity was discussed at the Air Force’s biennial Gender Conference held in Canberra mid-month.

“For some time now, debate about gender issues and workplace equality has largely been focused on women. While it is true that woman are under-represented in Air Force, and we need to improve the number of women, workplace opportunity and equality is for all members and all leaders,” Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, said in a statement.

“This means removing barriers, removing bias and discrimination, and including representation from all parts of Australian society that share our Air Force values to ensure we have full representation within our Air Force. Diversity is about capability and enhancing our workplace.”

The conference theme was “The difference I bring is the value I add”.

“Equality is about providing everyone with the opportunity to participate – this means different people at different points in their lives may need extra help,” AIRMSHL Davies said.

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Comments (3)

  • PAUL


    Theres a good tale in Dave Morgans book Hostile skies about his exploits as a Sea Harrier pilot in the Falklands. Before the war he took his partner for a ride in a 2 seat trainer Harrier T2 over to Germany, since she was a qualified Air Traffic controller she handled all the radio work, the Germans were rather flabbergasted that the RAF had a Female Sea Harrier pilot back in 1982!

  • Many of the early aviation pioneers were women. You only have to think of Harriet Quimby, Lady Mary Heath, Raymonde de Laroche, Amy Johnson, Helene Dutrieu, Bessie Coleman, and Amelia Earhart to name a few.

    Aircraft don’t care about the gender of the pilot!

  • Josh


    Most people seem to be missing the largest reason for this under-representation; women are less attracted to combat roles. The RAAF is not, and should not be, like an airline or flying club. It, like the rest of the ADF, exists primarily to provide strategic and tactical warfare-centric capabilities for Australia’s security. I’ve seen a reasonable amount of combat, and flown in conflict zones around the world. I’ve also worked extensively with women in the ADF and allied forces, and in civil aviation. I can tell you most women are capable of flying perfectly well, but most lack the required aggression and desire to enter combat. Those who do possess the combination of aggression and competence are very good, but a smaller proportion of women than men have this. It’s the same the world over.

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