Mission Aviation Fellowship

Aer Lingus pilot Lisa Cusack wins 2020 AWAR Dublin Trailblazer Award

Dublin City University, in partnership with the Irish aviation industry, has kick-started a year-long focus on inclusion in the aviation industry.

The ‘Year of Inclusion in Aviation 2020’ encompasses a range of activities aimed at growing knowledge and building awareness around inclusivity, with a specific focus on increasing the representation of women in aviation.

The initiative was launched with two key events include the ‘Advancing Women in Aviation Roundtable’ (AWAR) Dublin and the Airfinance Journal Conference 2020.

Speaking at the AWAR event, Sandra Healy, Director of the DCU Centre for Excellence for Diversity and Inclusion said: “The Irish aviation industry supports 42,000 people directly but as the sector continues to grow, a key challenge will be in building a more inclusive, diverse and sustainable workforce to support the pace of growth and continued business success.

Recent research into the aviation industry has indicated that about 30% of the workforce is female, but only 16% of those surveyed confirmed that over 30% of women occupy senior roles in their organisation.

The ‘Year of Inclusion in Aviation 2020’ initiative has been carefully designed to deliver really tangible supports and outcomes to increase the representation of women and create a more inclusive and diverse industry overall”.

At the AWAR event, First Officer Lisa Cusack, a pilot with Aer Lingus and DCU Alumna, was presented with a prestigious AWAR Trailblazer Award. Lisa was chosen for her unwavering determination and self-belief to realise her lifelong dream of becoming a pilot.

Attendees at the roundtable event heard of how the Dublin native, who grew up beside Weston Airport, studied physics at DCU and then spent many years working in the aviation industry, building her knowledge and experience.
Lisa took her first flying lesson at 13 and was instantly bitten by the flying bug.

After leaving university she got a job working as a flight dispatcher for Sky Handling Partner, where she remained for seven years. She later told Independent.ie “I managed to save €20,000 and thought this might just be enough to secure a €100,000 loan. It wasn’t. I continued to save and returned to the bank manager a year later with €30,000: ‘I’d like to borrow €100,000 to be a pilot please!’ The recession was in full swing and I was refused. Disappointed, but not disheartened, I kept going.”

In 2011 Lisa applied for an Aer Lingus cadetship but was turned down. Undaunted, she raised funds by starting a business baking cupcakes and selling them to businesses in the Dublin area. One year and 10,000 cupcakes later she had made enough money to do her PPL in the USA, a process that included an engine failure after take-off on her second solo flight.

On her return to Dublin, Lisa learnt that she had won a 4000 euro scholarship to complete her ATPL theoretical knowledge course with Bristol Groundschool. In 2013 she again applied for a Aer Lingus scheme as one of 3000 hopefuls for 18 places on a new Aer Lingus pilot cadetship.

This time she was successful and after completing her training she made her first landing at Dublin as an Aer Lingus pilot two days before her 31st birthday.

Co-founder and president of AWAR and Chair of the Advisory Committee for the ‘Year of Inclusion in Aviation 2020’, Amelia Anderson, said of the award: “We’re incredibly honoured to recognise Lisa Cusack as the 2020 AWAR Dublin Trailblazer. Lisa’s story is one of grit, resourcefulness and tireless determination, and she is an inspiration for young women and girls across Ireland”.

The final words go to Lisa, again speaking to independent.ie in 2017: “Was it all worth it? Absolutely. Were there days when I wanted to give up? Definitely.

It doesn’t matter where you come from, your upbringing, how much money you have or haven’t got, how smart you think you are, or aren’t.
If you are willing to work hard, believe in yourself and never give up…you can absolutely be anything you want to be.”

Author: FTN Editor

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