In the modern world, there are no restrictions, and boundaries are to be broken. We see more women stepping into roles that were earlier primarily ‘reserved’ for men. Leading countries, climbing mountain peaks, flying planes, diving deep into the oceans – women are conquering new frontiers. In this inspiring time, we have caught up with Nadine Hachen, who forms part of the 5% female pilots within Switzerland.
Above the clouds
Imagine Zurich airport in autumn. Foggy, rainy and dull. But in just a couple of minutes after taking off it is blazing sunshine. That instant change of perspective was what struck Nadine Hachen as a plane passenger years ago. The fascination of being in the sky and seeing the changing nature from up above planted the seed of her later career development. Today, at the age of 32, she is an experienced pilot of independent Swiss airlines Helvetic Airways with more than 3,000 hours of flying.
Inspiring the next generation of women in aviation
Native of the region Baden, canton Aargau, Nadine is very humble about her fascinating profession. “Other people have interesting careers too. I don’t talk a lot about me being a pilot.” However, her experience remains unique not only for women in Switzerland but worldwide. According to the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (Bundesamt für Zivilluftfahrt), there are currently around 400 female pilots in Switzerland. The number steadily grew since 1983, when Regula Eichenberger became the first Swiss woman to fly an airline plane. Yet today women represent only 5% of all the pilots in the sky.
Turning Dreams into Reality
The traditional expectation of a pilot being male didn’t stop Nadine from pursuing her dream. After four years of full-time employment as a cabin attendant, Nadine chose to change her career and become a pilot.
“The magic happened when I went into the cockpit for the first time as a flight attendant. I looked at the pilot job through their eyes and thought to myself: “Wow, I must do that as well!”
Conquering Frontiers takes a determined mindset. Nadine started at a small airfield where she gained her private pilot license. She achieved her commercial and multi-engine licenses from Horizon Swiss Flight Academy. Her skills were recognized by Helvetic Airways and she is now a fully-fledged commercial pilot at the company.
Where is our Pilot?
“What made it easy was the support of my family and friends. For them and for my employer, a female pilot is and ought to be a norm.
Passengers, on the other hand, are often surprised. When saying good bye to them after a flight, I often hear compliments: “Oh, what a nice landing we had!” As much as those are nice and kind comments, I doubt anyone emphasizes the ability of a male pilot to land smoothly. It’s taken for granted. With a woman it is more of “she is also able to do that” feedback.”
The level of passengers’ astonishment rises even higher when its all-female crew, which is not rare at Helvetic Airways.
The only big difference between men and women, emphasizes Nadine, is that sometimes the former are stronger. “We as pilots don’t have any physically challenging tasks, so why should there be less women in that job?”
Time is Everything
Even though there is no physical labour involved, the amount of responsibility that a pilot has to bear on her shoulders is immense. The decision-making power is on Nadine, and it’s another part of the job that thrills her. What is the weather bringing today? How much fuel do we need for the flight? What will be the alternative airport for landing if needed? All these and many more issues must be addressed by Ms Hachen and her copilot before taking off. And not once per day: she has up to 4 short-distance flights daily. Along with these tactical challenges, there is also a perpetual one, that of time.
Timing is essential for pilots.
“Simple and obvious as it is, we just have to be punctual. Naturally, delays are unavoidable, nevertheless, we always give our best to be on time. That’s why I can’t imagine a working day without my Sea Bird on the wrist.”
The watch is more than a functional companion for Nadine. Style and elegance are essential qualities to define a confident look and to serve as an empowering companion. “When I say elegance, I don’t mean small watches with diamonds. The obvious “lady” designs are not exactly for me. I like my watch to be stylish, but tough. This is why I love my Raider Sea Bird – it suits my character.”
The character with strength and determination. These are the traits one needs to follow an unconventional path in life. Nadine Hachen represents a confident and persistent modern woman. She perseveres to achieve her goals, yet views her achievements modestly and doesn’t look for praise. She is still one of the very few female pilots, but that means carving a place for many more to come afterwards. So that the 5% can become 50%.