El Al makes history with its first all-woman cockpit

Due to last-minute schedule change, pilot Smadar Schechter and first officer Merav Schwartz find themselves together on flight to Cyprus

Illustrative. A Boeing 747 El Al plane. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Illustrative. A Boeing 747 El Al plane. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Israel’s flag carrier airline El Al made history on Thursday, with its first-ever flight with an all-woman cockpit.

Amid great excitement, pilot Smadar Schechter and first officer Merav Schwartz flew passengers from Tel Aviv to Larnaca in Cyprus, although the duo were paired together through circumstance.

Schechter, 44, told the Ynet website upon her return that the all-woman flight had come about by accident rather than design.

‘I had to change my flight, and when I got to the airport, I saw that I was paired with Merav. We had suddenly found ourselves together before takeoff. Of course we were both very excited,” she said.

קוקפיט על טהרת המין הנשי????http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4756398,00.html

Posted by ‎EL AL אל על‎ on Friday, January 22, 2016

The entire company was eager to mark the occasion, and colleagues rushed to congratulate the pair.

“It is great to see all the departments in El Al praising us, being excited for us about the flight,” Schechter said. “It makes me feel that there is nothing like El Al in the world. People’s reactions speak for themselves, and it is an amazing experience to be treated like this, especially behind the scenes. Because of all the excitement, our friends and colleagues couldn’t stop photographing us in the control room — it certainly is a rare and very thrilling event.”

The passengers were informed of the historic moment over the plane’s intercom before takeoff, and, said Schechter, the announcement was greeted with a wave of applause.

While the two have made El Al history, Israel’s air force has had women pilots for more than 20 years, after Alice Miller broke the gender barrier by successfully petitioning the Supreme Court in 1994 for the right to enlist in the IAF pilots’ course. By the end of 2014, a total of 38 women had received pilots’ wings, according to the army.

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