A British woman is believed to have become the world’s youngest commercial airline captain at just 26 years old, easyJet said.
Kate McWilliams, originally from Carlisle, said she gets quizzed about her age by cabin crew and passengers almost every day and most are “pleasantly surprised and impressed” when she tells them her age.
She began flying at the age of 13 in the Air Cadets before embarking on a training programme at CTC Aviation in Southampton on her 19th birthday.
In May 2011 she joined easyJet as a first officer and recently took up the rank of captain after passing the airline’s command course.
An easyJet spokeswoman said that the Luton-based airline has carried out research which leads it to believe that she is the youngest commercial airline captain in the world.
Miss McWilliams said: “Personally I don’t think my age matters. I’ve been through the same training and passed the same command course as every other captain, so I’ve proven myself capable regardless of my age.
“I do now get asked how old I am on an almost daily basis which didn’t used to happen when I was a first officer.
“Usually that question comes from the cabin crew, but sometimes passengers ask too.
“When I tell them I’m 26, most people are pleasantly surprised and impressed with my achievement at such a young age.”
Miss McWilliams lives in Reigate, Surrey, and is based at Gatwick Airport.
She flies Airbus A319 and A320 planes to around 100 destinations, such as Reykjavik, Tel Aviv and Marrakesh. “With Gatwick having such an extensive route network my roster is very varied, so I rarely fly to the same place twice in the same month. That keeps things interesting.”
Miss McWilliams recalled that when she was growing up she “never even thought it could be an option” to become a commercial pilot, saying that she “didn’t know any I could ask for advice”.
But since she began training she has “never looked back”.Just 5 per cent of commercial pilots are female and last year easyJet announced an initiative to double the proportion of female new entrants to 12 per cent over two years.
Julie Westhorp, chairwoman of the British Women Pilots’ Association (BWPA), said she hopes Miss McWilliams’ progression inspires more women to consider pursuing a career in aviation.