Jobs in travel
CAPTAIN LUCY TARDREW HAS BEEN
FLYING with Virgin for 23 years, yet some passengers still do a double-take as she makes her way to the cockpit. Especially if she’s accompanied by a female first officer.
“That creates a bit more of a stir, and we might get stopped because people want selfies,” she says. “But if I’m with a male first officer, I think they assume: ‘Oh, that’s alright. There’s a guy up there too.’”
Before joining Virgin in 1995, Tardrew flew smaller aircraft loaded with cargo, night mail, motor parts for private clients or RAF ordnance. She now takes the helm on Boeing 747-400s, flying the Caribbean and US routes from Gatwick and Manchester.
In charge of up to 450 passengers on each flight, Tardrew has faced her fair share of challenges during her career – from blizzards and ice to disruptive passengers and medical emergencies. Last year a passenger suffered a heart attack on arrival at Gatwick Airport. “One of my cabin crew saved his life right there on the jet bridge,” she remembers.
The biggest challenge of all, though, is the final few minutes before take-off when the slightest interference can be a veritable spanner in the works.
Nevertheless, Tardrew still loves her job after all these years. “It’s a very people-orientated job, and very sociable. You have your colleagues on the flight deck and up to 15 cabin crew, plus all the passengers. You have up to four nights away somewhere. Plus there’s complete pay equality between male and female pilots. It’s an amazing career.”
Lucy Tardrew, pilot