Aviation, like much of the travel industry, remains a male-dominated space. Even in 2019, female pilots still only account for an estimated 4.4% (or 6,994) of commercial pilots in the US and UK, according to the Centre for Aviation. Recently, aviation history was made when Delta Boeing 757 was flown by a mother and daughter.
Captain Wendy Rexon and her first-officer daughter, Kelly Rexon, are the first mother and daughter pair in history to pilot a commercial flight together. As it ends up, flying is a family business when it comes to the Rexons. Wendy and her two daughters are airline pilots along with Wendy’s husband, who is a pilot for American Airlines.
“We would run around in (our parent’s) captain hats and have fun as little kids and go on their trips with them,” Kelly reminisced. “It was definitely part of the family business. I started flying when I was 16, and I had the pleasure of being (my younger sister’s) instructor and she was my first student.”
Wendy and daughter, Kelly Rexon, first flew together on a flight out of New York’s JFK airport. Their first flight proved eventful as the pair was confronted with smokes and fumes in the cockpit. Despite unforeseen complications, the women landed the flight safely in Los Angeles in what would be Wendy’s first time witnessing her daughter handle an emergency landing.
Although the aviation industry is largely ruled by men, the past decade has seen a steady (albeit slow) rise in women becoming pilots. The number of women holding Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) student pilot certificates has doubled over the past decade. As of December 2017, a total of 42,694 women hold active pilot certificates—including commercial and private pilots—which translates to 7% of all pilots according to the FAA. Female commercial pilots have also increased 19% over the past decade.