Tell us about your career to date
My aviation career began in 1989 when, as the first female applicant, I passed the Royal Danish Air Force pilot tests and was accepted as a student pilot at the military flying school in Denmark, for training in the Danish Air Force and the US Navy. After receiving my wings in 1992, I started flying the Sea King helicopter in the 722 Squadron.
In 2012, I moved to the private sector and started working for Luxaviation – at the time, a small business jet company with only four jets and 60 employees. Luxaviation is now one of the largest private aviation operators worldwide, managing more than 250 aircraft, 14 maintenance, repair and overhaul companies, and 24 fixed-base operators with a total of more than 1,600 employees.
What challenges did you face while training with the US Navy?
You constantly face challenges in this business. With regard to the exams, you do not pass if you have an overall good grade; you have to pass all exams at a good level. I had to study very hard when training for the US Navy, both academically and physically. Somehow, I matched the profile very well and I managed to graduate on the Commodore’s List.
Were search and rescue missions very demanding?
Flying search and rescue was very demanding because you work day and night, sometimes with very little or no sleep before a mission, in dangerous weather conditions. The crew get tired and you need to motivate them to keep up morale. The machines can be old and sometimes you have equipment which breaks down. However, most challenging is having to say no to a mission because it becomes too dangerous for the crew. As a commander on board the rescue helicopter, you always have to remember that you are responsible for the other five crewmembers who have families waiting for them at home. In the 722 Squadron, we successfully completed more than 800 missions per year.
What advice would you give to other females looking to become military pilots?
Just do it. You receive an amazing education and the skills you learn, not only flying skills but personal and management skills too, are something you can use in all areas of your future life. Do not worry that it will be too difficult – both men and women are equal when it comes to flying ability – it is simply a matter of studying. I admit that, for me, the hardest part was the physical training where I was usually the slowest runner; however, I passed all the exams at the end.
What does your current job entail?
As chief operating officer for the Luxaviation Group, I work closely with our chief executive in leading the development and execution of Luxaviation’s long-term strategy. It is a management role, which holds me responsible for the day-to-day management of the group as well as for implementing the company’s long- and short-term plans. By being part of the senior management team, I also function as a direct liaison between the CEO and the individual management of the companies in the Luxaviation Group. In my daily work, I am also responsible for our group procurement department which manages all supplier contracts and negotiations across the world.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy working with people, particularly my colleagues. They are all dedicated and highly knowledgeable, as most have spent much of their working lives in aviation, and the experience they bring is priceless. I think most people working in aviation are here because they are fascinated by aircraft. This makes them very passionate about their jobs, which is a dream for any employer. We have a workforce from all around the globe, so cultural communication and understanding is very important in my role. This is also one of the areas I really enjoy, and the best part is that you cannot learn solely from a book – you have to get out there, meet the people and learn from them.