TAKING FLIGHT: Eliza Ashton, Carly and Suzanna Crossingham, Anna and Paula Gordon, Brianna Christian and Letitia Schueler.
TAKING FLIGHT: Eliza Ashton, Carly and Suzanna Crossingham, Anna and Paula Gordon, Brianna Christian and Letitia Schueler. Emma Boughen

Girls can fly just as high

THE freedom of soaring a plane through the skies is what drew Central Queensland agricultural pilot Suzanna Crossingham to a career in aviation.

The mother and business owner, has joined with Emerald-based FlyCQ aviation school, and Recreational Aviation of Australia to encourage women to consider a career in aviation for the month of March.

Originally from Canada, Suzanna now runs Central Highlands Aerial Services with her husband Craig, based just north of Emerald.

"I was a commercial fisher when I saw a plan fly by and I decided that I would spend all of my money that I had made fishing on getting a pilot's licence," she joked.

The pair mainly spray and fertilise cotton, but there services expand into weed control in other crops such as chickpeas and mungbeans.

While it was the freedom that initially drew the pilot of almost 15 years in, Suzanna said it was the pursuit of perfection that kept her passionate.

"It's about always trying to become better and do things more efficiently," she said.

"It's as dangerous as you make it, it requires all of your attention and focus, there isn't time to daydream about whatever else is going in your life.

"If you screw up, you get a kick in the bum."

Suzanna said she didn't understand why aviation was seen as man's work.

"I don't really understand why girls don't get into these kinds of jobs, being a girl and being in a male-dominated industry never really concerned me," she said.

"I never thought I can't do this because I'm a girl, it's always something everyone else has made a big deal out of."

When she first started Suzanna felt she had more to prove than the boys, but that only made her work harder.

"In Australia this industry is small and ageing, there doesn't seem to be a lot of young people getting into agricultural flying," she said.

"It's a specialist field.

"But if you're willing to do the work and learn, and give it your best there will be a job for you.

"Effort is 90% of everything right?"

Former FlyCQ instructor Letitia Schueler, who has just this month moved to Brisbane to continue her training, said she has faced her fair share of struggles as a woman in a male-dominated industry.

The Marist College graduate said despite facing pushback from others in aviation because of her gender, she was determined to see out her goal of becoming an airline pilot and developing her skills in aerobatics.

"There is always someone trying to tell you, you can't do it because you're a girl or that you'll never get far but I just ignore those people," she said.

"It has to be your choice."

The next two years will be hard work for Letitia who must complete a series of exams and courses, as well as work and build flying hours.

"When you're up there flying around in control, it's all worth it," she said.

"The only thing standing in your way is you."

Owner of FlyCQ John Gordon, who has been flying for about 35 years, encouraged women's participation in the industry, because there was no reason why there shouldn't be as many as the boys.

"There is nothing better than the freedom and thrill you feel why you're up there," he said.

"There's no reason why girls can't fly, they're just as capable as the boys.

"It seems to be just be a numbers game."

Last week, March 7-13, was Women of Aviation World Wide Week, celebrating females in the field.

For the entire month of March Recreational Aviation of Australia are encouraging women to get involved by offering special deals to new members.

John's daughter Anna said the women's membership of Recreational Aviation of Australia was about 5%.

"That's what this month is all about boosting membership and giving women the opportunity to fly and know there are career options out there," she said.

For more information drop into FlyCQ at the Emerald Airport or phone 0418 458 095.

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