Pilot Careers

Championing women in aviation

Travelling around the world, meeting new people, and seeing new places, Captain Kristin Long is also

Kristin Long
Captain Long, right, with First Officer Christina Dethmers, on an International Women's Day flight

How did you get into flying?

My mum worked as a ticket agent and my dad as an airline dispatcher, so I grew up surrounded by the aviation industry. As a kid, I wanted to be a flight attendant, but aged 12 and good at maths, it dawned on me that I could be the pilot!

At university, Air Canada was hiring students as flight attendants and that’s when I discovered I loved the airline lifestyle. It’s great I got to realise both my dreams: becoming a flight attendant and then a pilot.

Tell us about your job?

I’m a WestJet Airlines pilot. Based in Toronto, Canada, I work as a captain on the B737. The Boeing 737 is the best-selling commercial jet airliner in the world and it’s wonderful to fly. Our flights usually range from one to five hours.

We fly within Canada, US, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and since the 737’s range has increased, even Europe. Our flight pairings vary from one to five days, and from one week to the next, our schedules can look very different.

We always fly as a crew, so strong communication skills are essential. Airline pilots also need good decision-making skills, leadership, attention to detail and the ability to react and adapt to rapidly changing situations.

I enjoy experiencing new things, so when getting to a destination, I try to soak up the culture, whether it’s trying the local food or visiting a local festival.

When flying to St. John’s, Newfoundland, for example, I try cod cheeks, listen to local live music, and hike up Signal Hill, where Marconi received the world’s first wireless transatlantic signal.

Also great about my work is getting to know different people. In cruise, you’re monitoring flight progress, weather, fuel use, etc., but when all that’s OK, you have a chance to talk to the co-pilot and flight attendants. If you love people and love travel, this is an amazing job.

Kristin Long
Based in Toronto, Canada, Kristin works as a captain on the B737 for WestJet Airlines

What training did you have?

I obtained my PPL in 1997, got my commercial IFR in flight college in 1998, and in 2001 I qualified for ATPL. My first job was flying for Perimeter Aviation, which I did from 1999 until 2003. Since 2004 I’ve been flying for WestJet on the B737, first as First Officer and then as Captain. Every six months, we receive recurrent training.

In my flight training and first job there weren’t many other females, so I felt quite isolated. That’s why in 2002 I launched a Chapter of Women in Aviation International (WAI). We need more women in aviation. It’s been great to connect them and for me, the mentorships that come out of it are very valuable. As my career progressed, I got to mentor other women starting out on theirs.

What’s been your favourite flight?

A red-eye flight in the winter of 2013, from Edmonton, Alberta, to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Normally, the red-eye flights aren’t desirable, but this time we saw the most amazing display of Northern Lights. They moved across the sky, green, purple, and even some red: it was mesmerising to watch.

Since we were on a very Northern Route and there wasn’t much traffic, we felt such a sense of peace and quietness. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And your favourite airfield?

Palm Springs, California. Partly because of its challenging approach – it’s on the Special Pilot in Command Qualification Airport List because of the mountainous terrain – and you really have to use your pilot skills.

Also because of the beautiful desert landscape and the open-air terminal building in art deco style. Palm Springs Airport has a lovely Californian vibe.

Kristin Long

Do you get to fly much outside of work?

No, I don’t. Between my job, my family and my various volunteer jobs, there isn’t much time left to go flying.

What’s your most valuable career advice?

Don’t be in such a rush to get to your final career destination that you miss out on all the experiences that are right in front of you. Sometimes people get so focused on their long-term goals that they forget there are opportunities for learning and growth at every step of the way.


Kristin Long

Flying CV

Passionate about getting more women into aviation, in 2002 Captain Kristin Long launched the Northern Spirit Chapter of Women in Aviation International.

Started current job January 2004
Now flying B737
Favourite aircraft B747. 'It is such an iconic aircraft with a feeling of nostalgia for the glamourous days of air travel'
Hours at job start 4,370 (of which 2,700 PIC)
Hours now More than 15,000

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