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View from the cockpit

Release date:
September 2021
Emma-Lou Douzol and trainer pictured in cockpit
Earlier this year in April 20-year-old Emma-Lou Douzol became the first French Sterling pilot scholar. Originally from Toulon, she has spent most of her summer working towards her private pilot’s licence (PPL) at the Paris Flight Academy


When did you first know you wanted to learn to fly?

My father loves all things aviation but it’s not something that I grew up around. However, a friend of my parents is a commercial airline pilot and he came to dinner one evening when I was about 13 years old. He had just returned from a trip to Tokyo and was telling us about his work. His tales of travelling around the world really piqued my interest and led to me completing my Brevet d’initiation a l’aéronautique (BIA) – an introduction to flying, which involved studying how aircraft work and included three introductory flights. That cemented my desire to pursue a career as a pilot.


Were you always keen on studying STEM subjects at school?

I always enjoyed maths and physics at school and am currently studying aeronautical engineering at the ESTACA - an engineering college in Montigny-le-Bretonneux near Paris.


How did you hear about Air bp’s Sterling pilot scholarship programme?

It was through my college. When I found out about the opportunity, I didn’t think twice about applying for the Sterling pilot scholarship. I had initially looked into doing my pilot training last year, but due to a lack of funding and the pandemic I wasn’t able to take the necessary exams. Instead, I decided to get my engineering diploma and then re-apply for pilot training further down the line. So, to have been awarded Air bp’s Sterling pilot scholarship to complete my PPL now is something I’m incredibly grateful for. It’s given me faith in my own ability and has enhanced my learning as I now have practical experience as well as the technical background. It will also provide me with a solid foundation to pursue a career as a commercial pilot.


What have been the highlights of your PPL so far?

I’ve just completed my 11th hour of flying and I’ve loved every minute so far. I’ve yet to do my first solo flight which is something I’m nervous about, but also excited to do. And I really enjoyed practising take-offs and landings, which I had to do for an hour nonstop the other day.


How does it feel to be not only the first French Sterling pilot scholar, but also a woman in aviation?

I think it can still be difficult for women in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry, but that’s changing all the time. I have a female instructor as well as a male instructor and once you’re in the cockpit, gender doesn’t matter at all.


What is your ambition ultimately?

I have thought about flying private jets or becoming an instructor, however my focus currently is on becoming a commercial airline pilot. The ability to travel and experience different countries and cultures is definitely a big part of the appeal for me, but it’s also the responsibility of knowing a plane load of passengers rely on you to transport them safely to their destination.


Do you have any concerns about pursuing a career in aviation, especially following the pandemic?

The aviation sector has certainly suffered as a result of the pandemic, however I do believe it will build back better. For me, the bigger concern is climate change and the role we all play in ensuring sustainable growth for the aviation sector. It’s something that’s very high on the agenda for young people coming into aviation now.


What would be your message to other young people wanting to pursue a career in aviation?

Never be afraid to follow your dream! And don’t be scared of what others think or say. It’s important to believe in yourself and remember that everyone is capable of achieving what they set out to do.


For more Sterling card interviews, please click here.