In Summary
  • Inspiring women. Women’s Day was marked last Friday, but the celebration is not over. This month, we will celebrate inspiring women in different sectors.
  • Today, we celebrate Anne Asselman, a pilot and Ann Steemans, a cabin crew member in the same airline as Asselman.

On Women’s Day, Anne Asselman, flew a plane with an all-female cabin crew from Belgium via Rwanda to Entebbe International airport. The intention was to raise awareness about gender inequality in the aviation sector.
Upon reaching Entebbe airport at about 10.30pm, the team was treated to a small celebratory welcome party commemorating Women’s Day.
Asselman went ahead to briefly speak about her profession as a pilot. The 43-year-old says as a child, she was typically that kind of little girl who just wanted to have fun.

“I never really thought of any profession. The aviation vocation just came along the way,” she says, adding: “I went to flight school, and, everything went well and I found a job.”
She started flying planes in 1997 at tender age of 21. On what her first experience was like, Asselman says she does not really remember as it was a long time ago.
A number of people always tend to think that flying a plane is in fact a complex process, but not for Asselman. The pilot says it is in fact much easier than driving a car.
“This is because there are less people in the air and one doesn’t always have to watch out like how motorists do while driving on the road,” she says.

The rewards and challenges
Undoubtedly, because of her job, Asselman is always travelling around the globe and spending time away from her family. She has three children. The eldest is 12. One wonders then how she is able to balance her family and work life. “I tend to spend 15 days away from home and given the same number of off-days to spend with my family,” she says, adding: “While at home [away from work], I try to compensate and do a lot of things with the children [for instance], I take or pick them up from school.”
Currently, her family stays in Belgium as she works across the globe.
Asselman says the relationship she has with her workmates is close. “I have gotten to a point where I actually know my colleagues very well because of the (much) time we spend together,” she says.

Regarding what previous challenges she has found while on duty, Asselman says there have been problems with planes, but, at the same time, there are a lot of procedures that are followed to resolve the issue at hand.
“Our planes are well maintained so, we don’t have so many defects,” she says.
In addition, Asselman says issues also tend to arise when everyone is tired and there are difficult passengers on board, or, when the plane breaks down and people don’t have patience.

Cabin crew member’s experience
Ann Steemans, 47, was also aboard the same flight as a senior cabin crew member. While growing up, most children of her age dreamed of becoming doctors, nurses, among other professionals. For Steeman, her dream was to be on airplanes taking holidays, hobby that now rhymes with her current profession. She’s travelling around the globe and enjoying it.
“We see and meet many people, thanks to our job,” she says.
Steemans says cabin crew members are always expected to remain calm and patient even when dealing with aggressive passengers.
‘Our mandate is to ensure that everyone walks out of the plane happy,” she says.

Her saddest moment while on duty happened about 10 years ago when a mother lost a baby during a flight from Brussels to Nairobi, Kenya.
“I remember her suddenly starting to cry and in the process, also, began losing blood. A gynaecologist on board tried to help her, but unfortunately, she lost the baby. That incident has stuck with me because I directly attended to the woman,” she says.
Although she does not have biological children, she tends to visit orphanages from time to time, giving basic necessities, including clothes to needy children.
To other women working in the aviation sector, Steeman urges them to be strong and that they can achieve anything.