Number of women in aviation rising, says female attack helicopter pilot
Melis Çalapkulu - Ankara
The number of women in the aviation industry is increasing by the day, says Özge Karabulut Coşan, Türkiye’s first female attack helicopter pilot who became known in the country for her brave efforts against wildfires in the Aegean tourism hub Marmaris.
“Women are very good at these things,” the 29-year-old pilot said in her first interview with the media, reiterating that women do not face discrimination in the aviation sector.
“Together with Sikorsky helicopters, we perform aerial reconnaissance, surveillance, image transfer and VIP protection missions,” Coşan said, noting that she flies Bell 429, which is used to support reconnaissance and surveillance operations, in addition to attack helicopters.
Joint operations are carried out with smuggling, public order, narcotic and anti-terror units, Coşan said.
“In addition, we have routine check-ups three days a week.”
“We can even monitor whether someone is wearing a seat belt or talking on the phone with our high-definition cameras at the traffic controls we perform from the air,” she said.
“In the forest fires in Marmaris, we identified the places with the possibility of fire with the surveillance activities conducted, provided image transfer and coordination with a mobile station with a diameter of 100 kilometers [62 miles] established,” she said.
“The other team participated in the extinguishing efforts with a Sikorsky helicopter,” Coşan added.
As the first and the second pilots don’t sit side by side but back and forth in attack helicopters, the connection inside the cockpit needs to be very solid, requiring a great deal of attention, according to Coşan.
“The only thing I focus on when I take flight is the importance of the task and how I will perform it in the best way,” Coşan said.
“Ever since I was a child, I had a passion for becoming a soldier or a police officer. After graduating from university, I passed the exam for the Police Chiefs Training Center in 2016 and graduated in 2017,” she added.
“After starting my career as a deputy police chief in Ankara Police Department, I heard that there would be an exam in aviation. I passed the basic pilot exam and took one year of basic pilot training,” she said.
“High criteria are set when selecting pilots, Coşan said. “Those who successfully pass the English exam are subjected to the pilot aptitude test.”
It’s required to understand certain tasks in the simulator environment and perform them immediately in the test, while reading comprehension ability, reflexes, hand-foot coordination, and decision-making abilities are evaluated, she added.
“Those who pass the physical fitness test after this take the real flight with the Sikorsky helicopter, which determines whether you are afraid, panicked, or calm,” Coşan said, adding that psychological tests are also done as a pilot must manage the cockpit well.
Then, during the oral interview phase, the self-expression and self-confidence of the pilots are evaluated, according to Coşan.
“A ranking is made among those who successfully pass all these exams, and then the training process begins,” she added.