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Russian Aviator Girl: Premiere on RT Documentary

Until the early 2000s, mainstream aviation had been closed to young girls in Russia because it had always been seen as a strictly male profession. However, today aviation seems to be one of the endeavours of female empowerment. RT Documentary tells you the story of Maria Trunina, one of Aeroflot’s female pilots-in-command. To see more stories about Russian girls conquering the skies, tune in to the premiere of the Aviator Girl documentary tomorrow!

“The attitude towards girls used to be rather negative than positive. Before, a pilot was considered to be a male profession. So seeing a female pilot was extraordinary,” says Evgeny Smolnikov, director of Sasovo Civil Aviation Flying School located in the suburbs of Moscow. “Yes, we know that women piloted warplanes during World War II, and they were also members of DOSAAF – the Voluntary organisation for Cooperation with the Army, Air Force, and Navy established in 1951 in the Soviet Union. But there had been no women at the Civil Aviation Flight School.”

Until the early 2000s, mainstream aviation had been closed to young girls in Russia

“In 2005, I became a director here,” Evgeny adds. “And I remember, in 2006, one, two or three girls entered our flight school. Then there were six; then there were fifteen… And girls kept on coming; many girls were willing to study here. For a variety of reasons, of course. Some just liked the uniform.”

“But those who came at the beginning were truly in love with the skies.”

Though aviation was considered a purely male profession in Russia for a very long time, today’s young female pilots are relentlessly cracking the glass ceiling to conquer the skies.

“I haven’t studied at the flight school. It’s just that they wouldn’t take girls. I mean, it wasn’t a flight school; it used to be a flying club,” says Maria Trunina, a pilot-in-command working for Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline.

Maria Trunina is a Boeing 737 pilot-in-command working for Aeroflot, Russia’s largest airline

Maria was 31 when she started to learn to fly. Initially, she wasn’t planning to become a commercial pilot: she just wanted to learn to fly a plane. But having obtained a Private Pilot Licence, she realised how much she loved flying. So, she decided to transition to a bigger plane.

“In short, it was a great experience,” Maria recalls. “After a so-called ‘introductory flight’, the instructor said things that I think should be said to all girls.”

“Remember, Maria, an airplane doesn’t care if it’s a man or woman who’s piloting it,” said the instructor. “It only cares about the right set of controlling actions. No matter who performs it.”

 An aviation career requires a strong personality and determination and a lot of effort, and Maria has proof of all three.

“It is hard physically, though. One day you might have a night flight, then have a day flight, then have an early morning flight. You can’t get enough sleep. You get up at 4 a.m., and you fly back to Sheremetyevo. But you don’t go home — say, you fly to St. Petersburg. And only then do you go home. Really, at some point, I was coming undone.”

Today’s young female pilots are relentlessly cracking the glass ceiling to conquer the skies

Now the pilot-in-command of a Boeing 737, Maria Trunina has worked hard to get into the profession. She’s sacrificed comfort, basic needs, and many aspects of everyday personal life.

“But of course, I wanted to work at Aeroflot. I graduated from the Saint Petersburg State University of Civil Aviation, and I had some experience. Having compiled those things together, I applied for a job at Aeroflot. I came there as a co-pilot. I’d been flying as a co-pilot for Aeroflot for almost four years, and only then they considered making me a pilot-in-command. Once you complete the pilot-in-command programme and pass the tests, you become a pilot-in-command! You get a Pilot Licence saying that you’re a pilot-in-command.”

Today over 50 girls fly for Aeroflot, and about 10 of them are pilots-in-command. No other Russian airline can boast of such numbers.

Today over 50 girls fly for Aeroflot, and about 10 of them are pilots-in-command

 “Of course, everyone gets in the groove eventually — it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. Naturally, the charm does not go away,” says Maria. ‘You might be on your night flight thinking, ‘Come on already! When will it end?!’”

“And then, you see the sun coming up! And if it’s rising, say, above Baikal?! Or above mountains? In these moments, I feel happy.”

While piloting an aircraft, you’re out of your comfort zone; you can’t control most things. But Maria and her female colleagues are not put off by this fact.

As most other pilots, they are kind of superstitious. Everyone has their own personal superstitions. For example, pilots never use the word ‘last’ but instead talk about their ‘latest’ flight. They won’t sew on buttons or take pictures before a flight and always greet their plane by caressing its nose or propeller.

While in an aircraft cabin, you’re out of your comfort zone

To learn more about a pilot’s life and see stories of other brave aviator girls from Russia, tune in to the premiere of a new documentary tomorrow!