• Commercial pilot, Christina Carmela Panebianco, has been fascinated with planes for as long as she can remember.
  • She saved up enough money to put herself through aviation school and faced discouragement from male pilots when she started flying.
  • Christina persevered and has been flying for 11 years.
  • She plans on leveraging on the changes in the aviation industry by setting up a charter company.

 After finishing high school, Christina was hungry to take every flying lesson she could, although attending flight school is a costly affair.

After working in waitressing, sales, and bartending, she moved to India and began modelling and working in Bollywood.

Within 15-months, the Capetonian had saved up enough money to attend South Africa's best flight school and has now been flying for 11 years. 

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The 29-year-old's journey has been far from smooth. Many people have mistaken Christina for a stewardess, and one training captain told her that 'women belong in the kitchen.'

The insult wasn't something new to Christina; however, the criticism from some of her male colleagues only spurred her on."It's been tough. I've had to work twice as hard for half the credit," she says.

"Even before I stepped into the plane, male pilots told me that women couldn't fly. Instructors have deliberately given me a hard time, and I was often singled out in class as the only woman in the room. I was told that 'women belong in the kitchen' right before my simulator testing. It upset me at first, but I soon showed him what I was capable of." 

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Christina believes that the modelling pictures she posts on Instagram probably feed into the idea of her that people have in their heads.

"It doesn't get to me anymore. I just want to work harder. People usually tell me that I'm the only female pilot that they've ever met and you earn a lot of respect. I love travelling. Being in the aircraft itself is great, but there is nothing like getting to see the world. I love pushing myself to my limits and embarking on new adventures."

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Now looking to set up her own private charter company, Beau Monde Aviation, Christina is taking control over her career. With less than five percent of pilots being women, she hopes to use social media to inspire a new generation.

"My five-year plan was always to open my own charter company, but with everything that's happening now, I've had to think about what's happened to the aviation industry," Christina says.

"I decided to make my future plan a now-plan. I was lucky enough to find an investor and we're working day and night to set it up. In a time like this, no one wants to fly on a commercial plane with hundreds of people."

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Christina is also keen to help other women learn about aviation. "I love to speak to any woman interested in becoming a pilot, and I'm happy to help them online and offer advice," Christina says.

Do you have an interesting career story to share? Tell us about it here.

Story by mediadrumworld.com /@aviator_tinks/ MAGAZINEFEATURES.CO.ZA

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