Changing Perceptions

By F/O Sara Baer (Alaska Airlines)


Growing up in an airline family, I had my sights firmly set on an airline job at an early age. My mom worked in the IT Department at Alaska Airlines and frequent family flights opened my eyes to the opportunity of flying for a living. As part of an elementary-school assignment looking at future career choices, I proudly announced to my class that I wanted to become an airline pilot … and I’ve never looked back.


I attended Parks College of Engineering, Aviation, and Technology at St. Louis University where I built up my hours serving as a flight instructor. I later flew the ERJ145 for American Eagle and the Q400 for Horizon Air before returning to Alaska Airlines where I am a currently a B737 first officer.

As an airline pilot, I’ve made a conscious effort to volunteer my time to give something back to my profession. Airline industry analysts have long projected a future pilot shortage and I know that women represent a largely untapped resource when it comes to potential airline pilot candidates. Currently, only six percent of the more than 59,000 ALPA-represented pilots at 35 U.S. and Canadian airlines are female.


Accordingly, I am attending this year’s Women in Aviation International Conference (@WomenInAviationIntl) and Girls in Aviation Day (@GirlsinAviationDay) as an ALPA Education Committee representative, in part, to help highlight this imbalance. I participated in a prerecorded panel discussion on strategies for maintaining a reasonable work-life balance and I’m also helping to staff the Association’s virtual booth to communicate to other females−particularly the students who attend−the reality that they are wanted and needed to fill current and future airline pilot job vacancies.


While many of these women do not have the early opportunities I had to witness firsthand the merits of flying, I hope that my attendance at these events convinces them to seriously consider this meaningful and rewarding career choice. If these young women can begin to imagine themselves as future airline pilots by seeing and chatting with another woman in an airline pilot uniform, I’ve helped them take that crucial first step.

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