Petworth pilot - first ever British woman to captain jumbo jet - hangs up her wings

Yvonne Kershaw on the flight deck for the last time
Yvonne Kershaw on the flight deck for the last time

The first British woman to captain a jumbo jet has hung up her wings after 27 years piloting the iconic Boeing 747 aircraft for Virgin Atlantic.

Yvonne Kershaw, a 64 year old grandmother from Petworth, gained her captaincy for the 747 in 1993, and has since clocked up over 2,000 flights totalling 18,000 flying hours in the flight deck of the 455 seater, 377 tonne aircraft.

After a total of 46 years flying, Yvonne’s final commercial flight took place yesterday Wednesday (August 2) when she flew holidaymakers from Cancun to London Gatwick.

Yvonne first caught the flying bug when she learnt to fly at the tender age of 19.

After spending time flying smaller aircraft around Europe and North Africa, she gained her commercial licence and began flying executive jets.

She applied for her dream job - flying the 747 at Virgin Atlantic in 1990 when the airline’s fleet comprised only four Boeing 747s.

After three short years, Yvonne was granted command of the aircraft and became the first female 747 captain in the UK.

She said it had taken passengers a few years to get used to seeing a woman coming out of the flight deck: “Breaking down those barriers wasn’t easy but nobody ever said it would be. What you need is passion about your job, determination and skill.”

She added: “It has been a privilege to fly the flag for female captains over the past 24 years.

“After overcoming traditional gender stereotypes I’ve been humbled to act as a role model for young aspiring female pilots. After being in the driving seat of the world’s most iconic plane for years it will be an odd feeling to board as a holiday maker. It’ll be odd to be a backseat pilot. I’ll have to stop myself giving the captain a few tips.”

She said she was ‘slightly tearful’ after her final landing: “With long-haul it’s not a job, it’s a way of life, because you spend so much time away.”

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1) Make our website your homepage at www.midhurstandpetworth.co.uk/

2) Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MidhurstandPetworthObserver

3) Follow us on Twitter @mid_pet_obs

4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!

The Midhurst and Petworth Observer - always the first with your local news.

Be part of it.