Women in aviation: an invaluable asset to Guyana
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Tammy Massiah
Tammy Massiah

-to be celebrated today for their many ‘firsts’

AS Guyana joins the rest of the world, today, to celebrate International Civil Aviation Day 2021, several women will be remembered for the phenomenal and inspirational mark they have left on the sector and the contributions they continue to make.

Captain Cheryl Pickering-Moore

Known the world over as a male-dominated sector, pilots Beverly Drakes, Cheryl Pickering-Moore, Simone Dowding, Feriel Ally and Deborah Fiedtkou-Gouveia; Air Traffic Controllers Paula McAdam and Sandra Persaud; Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Kharashna Bhagwandeen and Tesia Alicia Alexander and flight dispatchers Tammy Massiah and Felesha Johnson, chose to follow their dream. In so doing, they have inspired other women to take up careers in the local aviation sector.

This year’s celebration will be held under the theme “Advancing Innovation for Global Aviation Development.”
Like in Guyana, women in other parts of the world have proven that they too are worthy of recognition for their invaluable service to the sector.

Captain Feriel Ally

Among them are Blanche Scott, who became the first woman pilot in 1910, when the plane that she was allowed to taxi mysteriously became airborne and Harriet Quimby, who, in 1911, became the first licensed woman pilot and in 1912, the first woman to fly across the English Channel.

Paula McAdam

Recently the Guyana Chronicle spoke to some of the outstanding women in the local aviation sector. They all detailed their respective careers and urged women desirous of entering the sector to do so with passion and for their own personal fulfillment.

Mc Adam, who is Guyana’s first female Air Traffic Control Officer, achieved the distinction of being the longest-serving staff member of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to date. During her 48-year career she has achieved many firsts for women in aviation.

Felesha Johnson

In April 1979, she was appointed Air Traffic Control Officer 1 and thereafter continued climbing the ladder. She was appointed to several other high ranking positions including Deputy Director (Acting) in July 2001, and Aircraft Accident Investigation Officer/Chief Aircraft Accident Investigation Officer in 2014, a position which she held until March 2021.

FIRST FEMALE ARMY PILOT

Kharashma Bhagwandeen

Pickering-Moore made her name in the sector as the first woman pilot for the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).
In 1973, Pickering-Moore joined the GDF as a personal assistant to the Commander. In 1975, she was the first female officer to carry the GDF’s colour as the colour ensign. She was also the first female ADC to Vice-President Viola Burnham.

Pickering-Moore who retired as a Captain, attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Upon completion of her training, she was hired as one of the first two GDF women pilots. She flew the Britten Norman Islander, Twin Otter, HS 748, and the DHC- 8. She also served as Executive Officer of the Air Corps.

In 1980, Pickering-Moore was transferred to the government-owned Guyana Airways where she spent nine years before moving on to LIAT.
In 2013, she and other pioneer aviators of Guyana were honoured with their likenesses being featured on postage stamps.

According to the statistics in ‘Women in aviation: A workforce report,’ women in the United States make up only 3 per cent of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Chief Operating Officers (COOs) in the world’s top 100 airline groups and 8 per cent of airline Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are women.

DETERMINED TO SUCCEED
Meanwhile, Dowding related that she received the Prime Minister’s award for her contribution to aviation in Guyana. The 34-year-old has worked at both the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and the GCAA and has made a significant mark in the local aviation sector.

She noted that she believes that, while there were a few barriers to women joining the male-dominated sector, she never allowed that to stop her.
“There’s always a sense of consciousness involved; I would not necessarily put it as fear because I was always determined to succeed with my dreams and aspirations. Therefore, I never used fear to become my failure; in fact, I used it, as my aspiration to succeed,” she told the Guyana Chronicle.

She disclosed that while employed at the GCAA her role was to draft, upgrade and enforce compliance with the regulations set out by the aviation body.

Dowding used the opportunity to advise women who are considering a career in aviation, not be discouraged or dissuaded from following their dream.

“There were a few barriers, but they did not dissuade nor discourage me from what I loved doing best. I did it. You can do it. You will face challenges, as you try to navigate in a male-dominated workplace. But it’s important to stay focused on the positive and put your challenges into perspective,” she added.

Massiah, a 10-year aviation specialist echoed similar sentiments as she encouraged women to leave their mark in the sector.
She emphasised that, in order to bring about change, they must be willing to make sacrifices to become “the first.”

Massiah is a Senior Flight Operations Supervisor/Licensed Flight Dispatcher at Trans Guyana Airways Limited. She holds a Diploma in International Business from The University of Cambridge.

She said among the most gratifying feelings during her career was when she witnessed the advancements and innovations in the sector and saw how many of those were facilitated and implemented by women. She said these occurrences, further solidified women’s roles in the sector.

Additionally, Johnson who is 23 years old, became the youngest woman locally to become a Licensed Flight Dispatcher Officer, in July 2021.
She joined the GCAA in 2019 and is currently serving as a Flight Dispatcher Officer and a technical assistant in the drones department.
Johnson is also the holder of a Phlebotomy licence.

She told this publication that her experience in the aviation sector has been fulfilling and has enabled her to grow beyond her own expectations.
Continuing the trend of first is Guyana’s first female Aircraft Maintenance Engineer with Civil and Federal Aviation Licence, Kharashma Bhagwandeen. She is known as a pioneer for women in the maintenance section of aviation.

She is currently the Director of Operations and owner of Tradewinds II, a catering company located in Jersey City, New Jersey.

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