Yvonne Kershaw became the first British woman to gain her captaincy for the 747 in 1993, and has since clocked up over 2,000 flights totalling 18,000 flying hours in the flight deck of the 455-seater, 377-tonne aircraft which has long been a favourite for pilots.
After 27 years at Virgin Atlantic and a total of 46 years flying, Yvonne’s final commercial flight took place on August 2, when she flew holidaymakers from Cancun to London Gatwick, landing into the airport 10:30am.
Yvonne first caught the flying bug when she learnt to fly at the tender age of 19. After spending time flying smaller aircraft around Europe and North Africa, Yvonne gained her commercial licence and began flying executive jets. After working at an airline flying the MD83 she decided it was time to apply for her dream job – flying the 747 at Virgin Atlantic.
Ms Kershaw joined Virgin Atlantic in 1990 when the airline’s fleet comprised only four Boeing 747s and was granted her command three years later, becoming the first female 747 Captain in the United Kingdom. She cites her career highlights as becoming one of a select group of training captains who train the next generation of captains for the 747 fleet. She has also been invited to attend and speak at numerous events championing the development and recognition of women in leadership including the Women of the Year lunch which honours the most outstanding women in the country in their chosen fields. Other career highlights include flying Richard Branson around the network as well as meeting Sully Sullenberger onboard a Virgin Atlantic flight.
Captain Kershaw commented; “It has been a privilege to fly the flag for female captains over the past 24 years. After overcoming traditional gender stereotypes I’ve been humbled to act as a role model for young aspiring female pilots. After being in the driving seat of the world’s most iconic plane for years it will be an odd feeling to board as a holiday maker. It’ll be odd to be a backseat pilot. I’ll have to stop myself giving the captain a few tips.”
Captain Dave Kistruck, Vice President of Airline Operations commented: “I’ll be sad not to see Yvonne on the flight deck anymore but she leaves behind a legacy for all our future pilots. Having broken in to a traditionally male dominated industry in the 1990s, Yvonne is proof that you can smash glass ceilings and challenge archaic stereotypes. With Yvonne and her pioneering colleagues coming to retirement age, we’re investing in our future pilots through the pilot cadet scheme. So far 30% of our cadets have been women and we encourage people from all backgrounds to apply.”