Aer Lingus is currently taking applications for its Future Pilot Training Programme, and while the programme is very popular, the application rate among women is only around 7%.

The airline, which employed its first female pilot, Gráinne Cronin, in 1977, wants to encourage more women to apply.

It appointed Red C to conduct research to investigate why applications among women is so low. 

Davina Pratt, Director of Operations at Aer Lingus, said, "Unfortunately, there are still are some barriers and some myths in terms of applying to be a pilot.

"We discovered that males are still more likely to consider STEM subjects. The role of a pilot is discussed with males considerably more than females in schools and colleges. We found that 19% of males and 8% of females discuss it with career guidance counsellors."

Davina is a former chief pilot at Aer Lingus. She was the first woman ever to have been appointed to that role at any airline in the world.

"I think people are confused about what you need to be a pilot. There are myths that you need to have done some flying already, that you need degrees in mathematics or engineering. That's not the case," she said. Applicants must be 18 years of age and have passed the Leaving Certificate or an equivalent.

"In my own situation, I joined Aer Lingus 28 years ago. I'm from Killashandra in Co Cavan where there's very little aviation. I had no experience in flying. I had never been on an aircraft. I didn't have a degree in engineering or mathematics."

Women and men share the same aptitude to fly, according to the Director of Operations. The requirements and training for the job are the same.

"It is a highly regulated business, and in fact in Aer Lingus, we're European leaders in terms of employing women as pilots. 10% of our pilots are female. Obviously, we have lots of room for more. Aer Lingus employed its first pilot 42 years ago; Grainne Cronin who led the way for us all," Ms Pratt said. 

The Future Pilot Training Programme is fully-funded programme. Aer Lingus accepts 12 applicants, and it takes 18 months to complete.

Trainee pilots travel to Spain to learn how to fly, first spending spending six months in a classroom, before flying a light aircraft. "It takes 18 months, from walking into the flying school to flying your first jet, which as you can imagine is a fantastic experience. No two days are the same in aviation," the former chief pilot said.

Davina Pratt spends time in the airline's offices as part of her role as Director of Operations. She still flies and is commander on the 330 jets to the US.

"It is absolutely fantastic. You have 300 passengers on the plane, who are very happy to be going away. There is that feeling of taking off on the runway, that speed. You are in control of this metal tube, winging its way across the Atlantic. The welcome you get as an Aer Lingus pilot on an Aer Lingus aircraft is fantastic."

The closing date for applications for the Future Pilot Training Programme - www.aerlingus.com/careers - is July 8, 2019.