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In July, at age 20, Anne-Marie Frattini earned her commercial pilot’s license. As one of only a fraction of female commercial pilots in the country, the GHS Class of 2017 graduate plans to go on to become an airline pilot. She’s studying—and flying—at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, where she’s just started her junior year. (Photo courtesy of Anne-Marie Frattini )
Anne-Marie Frattini has been flying since the age of 15 and earned her commercial pilot's license at 20 this summer by completing a year of work capped by a solo six-hour flight of 500 nautical miles. (Photo courtesy Anne-Marie Frattini )
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In July, 20 year-old Anne-Marie Frattini got behind the controls, kicked on the engine of a single-prop Cessna in Daytona Beach, Florida, and took off into the sky.
Six hours and 500 nautical cross-country miles later, she was back.
The solo flight clinched a year’s worth of work to earn her private commercial pilot’s license.
“As a commercial pilot, I can fly passengers and cargo for hire. And I can get paid for that now, so that’s a big thing,” she says. “I’m limited to single-engine planes, but I’m working on getting my multi-engine [license] right now. So once I have that, I’ll be able to fly a plane with two engines.”
Thanks to the license she earned in July, Anne-Marie has already become one of a small fraction of female commercial pilots in the world and this country.
In 2018, the same year Southwest Airlines pilot Tammie Jo Shults made headlines for calmly completing a harrowing emergency landing in Philadelphia, the Institute for Women of Aviation Worldwide found just 6.3 percent of the world’s commercial pilots were female. That same year, the largest pilots’ union in the world, the Air Line Pilots Association, pegged the number of American female commercial pilots at roughly six percent of all pilots in the U.S.
Anne-Marie encourages more women to consider a career as a pilot.
“Aviation is a really growing field right now, so this is a great time for people who are maybe interested in it to get in it, especially women, because the airlines need pilots.”
For her part, Anne-Marie is planning to qualify as a commercial airline pilot.
A Long Journey Ahead
The Guilford High School (GHS) Class of 2017 graduate was interviewed by phone during the start of her junior year this month at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. The school is considered one of the nation’s top accredited universities specializing in aviation and aerospace.
By the time she graduates next year, Anne-Marie hopes to be closing the mark on earning her airline pilot’s license.
“It’s a long process, going from being a private pilot to the airlines,” she says. “There’s about four or five licenses you need to get there. I’ve got three of them so far, so I’m getting there. I’m working on my fourth one now.”
While she hopes to complete all the flight hours she needs by graduation to qualify as an airline pilot, Anne-Marie says after graduation, she’ll become a flight instructor or apply to a small airline charter company to get more hours in, if needed.
“Normally, you need 1,500 flight hours to get to an airline, but my school has a program called a restricted ATP [airline transport pilot certificate], where because I’m taking all these special classes specifically for aviation, I only need 1,000 hours to get to an airline,” says Anne-Marie. “So once I get the 1,000 hours, I can apply to an airline, and I can do all their training to fly all their planes.”
The airline she wants to work for? Southwest. That’s been Anne-Marie’s goal since she first began considering the career, shortly after she started training to earn her pilot’s license at 15.
“I like where they’re based out of—one of their big bases is Dallas, and that’s where I want to end up—and I really like their planes. And Southwest was also the first airline I flew, so I’m kind of biased toward them,” she says.
That first flight is an interesting story, because up until that point, Anne-Marie didn’t want to set foot an airplane, of any size, shape, or sort.
“It’s really funny—I was terrified of flying up until 8th grade,” she says. “I wanted nothing to do with airplanes. My family took a trip down to Florida and I had to go, so I got in the plane. And I was like, ‘This is pretty cool—I want to be a flight attendant!’”
While her parents were happy to see Anne-Marie embrace a potential career in aviation, they also encouraged to expand her horizon on what careers she might consider in the field.
“So I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I’ll try engineering,’” she recalls. “I wasn’t really interested in flying the plane; I just wanted to do something with aviation.”
While she was still in 8th grade, her parents gave her a flight lesson with Robinson Aviation at Tweed-New Haven Airport.
“I took the first lesson and I thought, ‘This is the coolest thing ever. I definitely want to be a pilot!’” says Anne-Marie, who started taking flying lessons regularly in 2014, at 15.
“I started flying and took lessons once a month. Taking over the controls, it was almost unbelievable—having that control for the first time was super cool,” she says. “As I got closer to 16, which is when you can fly solo, I started flying once a week, and then I kind of went on from there.”
Flying a single-prop Piper Warrior, Anne-Marie made her first solo flight over the shoreline.
“It was on Halloween, and my parents were so worried about my first solo flight that I didn’t tell them! I got to the airport and my instructor said, ‘You want to go solo?’ And I went up did my solo, came back and afterwards I called my parents and said, ‘Guess what I just did?’”
She earned her pilot’s license at 16.
“I got my pilot’s license before my driver’s license,” she says, laughing.
A Very Small Club
As for her own worries about experiencing any issues in flight, Anne-Marie says that’s what all the training is for.
“It’s mostly knowing what to do and how to handle certain situations, and remembering everything you’ve learned and trained for.”
In addition to putting in flight hours, “we have simulators [at Embry-Riddle] we use mostly for things like instrument readings, which allow you to fly in clouds. We simulate a lot of stuff like that—it’s less expensive and you can experience things you wouldn’t want to experience in the plane,” she says. “There’s also a lot to study. It just takes a lot of time and effort, but once you get done with it, it’s the most rewarding feeling.”
That being said, Anne-Marie is very aware that earning her commercial pilot’s license has already made her a member of very small club.
“I didn’t actually fly with another female pilot until a year or two after I started flying,” she says. “I’ve only flown with maybe five other female pilots, out of all my hours. So there’s really not a lot.”
Telling people she’s just met that she’s a pilot also makes for some interesting responses, she adds.
“There’s just not a lot of women pilots. You’ll see that people are just kind of blown away by it,” she says. “It’s funny, because my boyfriend is also a pilot. And whenever we go somewhere and people ask us what we do at school, and he says he’s a pilot, they’ll say, ‘Oh? That’s cool.’ And I say I’m a pilot and they’re like, ‘That’s amazing! Good for you!’”
At her school, while the number of female students has grown, it remains noticeably lower than the male population.
“It’s grown a lot, but there are not a lot of females at my school. The ratio is about 20 percent female,” says Anne-Marie.
But in the world of aviation, it’s the ability of the pilot that’s paramount, and for Anne-Marie, the sky’s the limit.
“I’ve never had a problem with male pilots thinking I’m not as good as them. Because it doesn’t really matter if you’re male or female, as long as you can fly the plane and you can do it well,” she says. “That’s the most important thing.”
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