On the occasion of the International Women’s Rights Day, we met and interviewed Charlotte Marin, captain at Valljet, to learn more about her daily life as a woman pilot in the private aviation sector, a predominantly male sector.
Enjoy the interview!
Introduce yourself and your background in a few words.
“My name is Charlotte Marin and I have been a captain for a little over a year now at Valljet on Citations aircraft, ranging from the standard CJ to the CJ3 and the M2. I have been training people to become co-pilots for almost 2 months now, it is a very rewarding process that has become part of my career path. Before that, I was myself a co-pilot on an M2 aircraft at Aston Jet. To become a pilot, I followed a modular distance learning curriculum and was trained at the Mediterranean Air Training School for two years in Montpellier.”
Describe your daily life.
“Today at Valljet I have a rhythm of 7 days “ON” and 7 days “OFF”. In other words, for 7 days I am on call and I can be called for a flight at any time and end up anywhere in Europe, then I am off for 7 days. I alternate between Paris and Montpellier and when I come back to Montpellier, I take the opportunity to practice my second activity which is aerobatics. I fly “extra” planes that are also called single-seat aerobatic planes, I take part in competitions and I also do instruction on small planes in aeroclubs. What I appreciate most in my job is the “unknown” side, the fact that my days are never the same, that no mission is the same. Often, you don’t know where you’ll be the next day and it’s really this adrenaline that I’m looking for. On a day-to-day basis, we may be positioned on flights where we bring customers somewhere, or we may have to go and pick them up to bring them back to the point of departure. We also have missions generally for “corporate” clients where we will have to leave early in the morning, fly with the client, wait for them during the day and then bring them back to the airport of departure at the end of the day, while they participate in meetings for example. We are trying more and more to set up the “Empty Legs” system in order to fly as little as possible empty, without passengers, for obvious ecological reasons. Thus, we can be brought to make a flight and remain on the position several days while waiting to have passengers for the return flight. This allows us to have moments of conviviality in team and to reinforce the cohesion.”
Can you tell us about a flight that made an impression on you?
“I remember my first professional flight as a co-pilot at Aston Jet, it was brand new to me and it was amazing to be able to fly on this type of aircraft (M2). So I was in this jet which was very fast, it was an amazing feeling. I was on call and we were called for an organ transport flight. On this type of flight, we were likely to be called out day and night because of the urgent and unpredictable nature of these flights. We were working for the hospitals in Paris and our mission was to bring medical teams all over France to recover organs whenever necessary, we accompanied them so that they could harvest the organ and come back with it for another patient to benefit from. My very first flight was an organ flight to Clermont-Ferrand, for me it was a new experience, I remember that on the way back I kept turning around to look at the back of the cabin with this box that I think contained lungs, I looked at the scene with a lot of gratitude and my captain at the time told me to stop turning around all the time but I was very impressed by the situation. That flight made a big impression on me, because it was the realization of all my hard work and hopes of the past few years. My first flight with Valljet also had a big impact on me because it was my first flight as a left-handed captain, which was obviously very impressive. It was a turning point in my career. If I had to mention two flights, it would be those.”
What is your favorite route?
“Naturally, there are places where we go much more often than others, I think in particular of Nice, London, Milan… And at the same time we fly with planes that also allow us to go to rather unlikely places in France or elsewhere. We are happy when we fly a regular route because we feel more comfortable, but going to new places allows us to discover other corners and it is just as exciting. Otherwise, among my favorite destinations, I obviously place cities where I have family on site. For example, for the little anecdote, I posed for the first time some time ago on the grounds of Épinal, where my mother and my father-in-law live, where I grew up. It was the first time in almost 4 years that I had the opportunity to make this journey, so I did everything to be positioned on it. It was a realization and a huge pride to land on the city where I grew up and that my family was present to see me land. It was a magical moment, I was even able to show them around the plane and let them discover my daily life. I really like this human side of my job.”
As a captain, what is your relationship with brokers and in particular with AccessAir?
“The specificity of a captain today, and particularly at Valljet, is that we are in direct contact with the brokers, and this is one of the things I appreciate about the aviation sector. In fact, I often work with the AccessAir teams. All the players are more or less linked, it’s a small world where we all know each other and we have to work hand in hand, each one plays a very important role and all the professions intertwine to form one and meet the needs of the customers. As a captain, I am in communication with the brokers who are the link with the customer and who will submit to me the latest important information concerning, for example, a schedule update, specificities about the flight for the customer, about his needs, etc. After a flight, I am delighted when the broker can give me feedback from the customer. I’m satisfied when the flight has met both of these criteria: the safety aspect and then the satisfaction of the passengers.”
How do you feel as a woman in this particularly masculine profession?
“Today, I am very proud to be a woman pilot and a captain and I am delighted to be able to observe the development of the female pilot profession. The number of women pilots has increased considerably in recent years, we see more and more passionate women who want to become professionals and I greatly encourage it. In my company, I am the only female pilot. I am completely integrated into the team and I don’t feel any difference due to the fact that I am a woman, my professional entourage is very benevolent.”