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Female Top Guns reach new heights

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  • Female Top Guns reach new heights

    The Sunday Times - Ireland
    October 03, 2004
    Female Top Guns reach new heights
    Scott Millar

    TOM CRUISE may have fallen for his female flying instructor in Top Gun, but would-be Irish pilots are unlikely to have had similar luck. Of the Air Corps’ 100 pilots, only two are women. But that is about to change, following the relaxation of height and weight restrictions that acted as a barrier to aspiring women defence force pilots in the past.
    The purchase of new training aircraft, more suited to the vertically challenged, means smaller women are now free to join.

    In the past, successful entrants had to measure 5ft 6in; now they can sign up if they are 5ft 4in.

    Captain Anne Brogan, the Air Corps’ first female pilot who gained her wings in 1998, said: “I have been involved in the interview process for cadets for the last few years and every year we have a couple of disappointed prospective women cadets unable to make it due to height requirements.

    “There has been no difference found between men and women’s performance as pilots. It comes down to eye and hand co-ordination and dexterity and people of either sex can have an aptitude for these or not. Hopefully, with this change more women will be successful.”

    One woman pilot who was previously rejected because she was too small has already joined the force. Susan Furniss started training along with five other male cadets last week.

    The new aircraft are eight dual-seated PC-9Ms, a turbo prop aircraft manufactured by the Swiss firm Pilatus. They cost ¤60m and began service as training craft this week.

    To qualify for basic training, cadets must meet a range of physical measurements. These include back, leg and arm length as well as maintaining a training weight of between 8st and 18st 7lbs. The advanced nature of the new aircraft means the physical requirements are less stringent than they were for the Siai Marchetti training craft previously used.

    The PC-9Ms have a number of modern technological features including a control display unit with mission recording capability, which relays the display and flight control actions to the rear cockpit, so the trainer can study the flying expertise of the cadet.

    The new aircraft will also allow pilots to increase their flying hours from 150 to 200 because of the aircraft’s higher operating ceiling. Irish weather frequently restricted training at the Siai Marchetti’s 10,000ft limit.

    The new aircraft have a light armament capability and can be used for security or defensive operations as well as for training.

    The Corps, based at Casement Aerodrome outside Dublin, provides transport for government ministers and helicopter back-up for the police and ambulance service. Pilots also carry out surveillance and fisheries protection in the country’s 132,000 square nautical miles of territorial waters, mostly in the Atlantic.

    However the Corps will shortly be losing one of its roles when it relinquishes its offshore search and rescue responsibilities on October 9 and closes its Sligo base. A private company called CHC is to maintain the service from then on.

    The Irish Air Corps dates back to the Anglo-Irish treaty talks of 1921, when a Martinsyde Type A Mark II biplane was purchased to permit Michael Collins to escape to Ireland should the talks fail. In the event, it was not required and became the first Irish military aircraft, arriving in Ireland in June 1922.

    Commandant Brian Moynihan, the Air Corps’ spokesman, said: “The service is continuing to expand its capabilities and the force was very happy that we could bring the height requirement in line with the other parts of the Defence Forces. The hardware was badly in need of an upgrade and it’s great to see as a by-product of that more women, and indeed men, will be able to pursue a career in the service.”

    The Air Corps has approximately 100 qualified pilots who fly 45 aircraft, largely helicopters and light aircraft. There are also a small number of jet planes, which make up the Silver Swallow aeronautical display unit.

  • #2
    It was going grand until they mentioned the "Jet planes"
    Whats an aeronautical display unit? Is that where the Planes are stripped down for students of aeronautics?

    Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.


    • #3
      Personally I was more interested in this line
      Pilots also carry out surveillance and fisheries protection in the country’s 132,000 square nautical miles of territorial waters, mostly in the Atlantic.
      There are Irish territorial waters in oceans other than the Atlantic?
      Si vis pacem para bellum


      • #4
        Well, The irish sea is technically Not part of the atlantic.

        Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.