International Women’s Day is on March 8, and we took the opportunity to speak with some of our amazing team members. These three women work across the world as part of the Coulson Aviation and Coulson Aviation Australia teams.

In their own words, working in aviation, and specifically aerial firefighting in global operations, has its challenges. But it also has big rewards and is a chance to do something they are passionate about.

Captain Dawn, C130 pilot, Coulson Aviation

Pilot Dawn is currently working in New South Wales, Australia. Her role with Coulson Aviation takes her all over the world.

“I joined the USAF in 1998 but didn’t start flying until 2006. I’ve been flying C130’s since 2008. I’ve done tours in Southwest Asia and Afghanistan and flown pretty much everywhere in between. I even delivered a C130 from the US to the Ethiopian Air Force when I was 3 months pregnant with my son!  

“I started flying on fire in 2017 with Tanker 116 for the Forrest service and began with Coulson in 2018 flying both the C130 and B737. 

“I still think it’s unusual for women to be in aviation, though I know many powerful women in the aerial firefighting community right now.  We have come a long way, but I get excited and have a huge grin on my face when I see a female flight instructor pre-flighting an airplane on the flight line or hearing a woman’s voice come over the PA from the flight deck on a commercial flight. 

“I always encourage people to pursue a career in aviation. I think the same basic tenant applies for aviation and aerial fire fighting specifically…you have to have a dogged pursuit of excellence.

“This doesn’t mean you won’t or can’t fail or make mistakes. But how do you pick yourself back up, and who do you have around you to support you through your journey, knowing that in every flight lives and property of the community you serve can be at stake.”

Safety Manager Ebony, CASR 42 and 145 Quality Manager

Having been in the aviation industry for more than ten years, Ebony holds the integral role of Safety Manager, which matches her passion for creating a culture that pertains to a safe and just environment. 

“My job keeps me incredibly busy, but I would not change it for the world. I chose the career path of Safety because I enjoy working with people and I am passionate about creating a culture that pertains to a just and safe environment. Everything in aviation is tied back to safety and I enjoy that responsibility. 

“Most people have this vision of a male pilot in his crisp white shirt and pilot cap walking towards a passenger plane, but there is just so much more to aviation. My gender does make me a minority in this industry, although I have found in more recent years there are more of us coming through the ranks.

“It certainly posed some challenges, and I have had to work hard to break down some of those barriers, but for the most part, the world is changing before our eyes and the acceptance of women in aviation is celebrated. I would strongly encourage anyone including women at all ages to consider a role in aviation.

“A career in aviation is so full of opportunity, and right there’s a shortage of pilots and engineers – now is the time to make to make that career move. There are so many career paths such as air traffic control, operations, communications, ground support, security, audit, governance, and of course safety.

“At Coulson Aviation Australia, I am filled with such a sense of purpose knowing I am part of a team that supports the community in times of crisis.

“If you enjoy a challenge and love variety in your day then aviation is definitely the industry for you!”

Co-Pilot Annie of the CH47-D

Pilot Annie is a CH-47 Co-Pilot currently working in Victoria, Australia. This is her third year with Coulson Aviation and her first season in Australia after a summer in the Northern hemisphere flying a Chinook.

“I think many women might consider or dream of a role like mine, but for those that want a family, the lack of work/life balance in this type of career, specifically helicopter firefighting, tends to deter them.

“However, for those independent souls or those choosing not to settle down and go the family route, I think flying helicopters can be an attractive option. It can be very exciting and fulfilling. Type A’s who have to ability to give the job 100% of their focus tend to be the ones that end up in this profession.

“I tell women out there that are considering this career to understand that it is a serious commitment with a lot of sacrifice. You have to be flexible, ready to go at a moment’s notice, ready to change direction, deal with a high amount of stress, and being away from home for long periods of time. We miss birthdays and anniversaries and bbq’s. It’s still hard even when you have a supportive partner.

“That being said, those of us that choose it as a career, we truly love the flying and the adrenaline and making a difference.

“We love our co-workers too, who become our extended family. Coulson is still a very family-oriented company and I believe that is a big part why they’ve been so successful and have such a great group of folks working for them.”