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Diamond Faces: The Pilot is a Lady

Behind every of our products there are people that help your dreams take flight. Today, we introduce you to Fanni Pajer, who is working as a pilot in our Flight Operations Team and is the Governor of the Austrian section of the Ninety Nines. Learn more about the lady that is living the dream of a life above the clouds.

About Fanni
Fanni, a mom of two kids, was born in East Germany. As a child she emigrated to Hungary with her family and at the age of fifteen she finally settled in Austria.
Fanni’s way into the cockpit started in the cabin. Originally, her dream was to study journalism, but life had different plans with her. Capable of speaking five different languages she started a career as a flight attendant at Austrian Lauda Air and worked her way up to a Senior Cabin Attendant. That was the time, when she first entered a cockpit. Immediately she was fascinated by all the instruments. Her pilot colleagues – at that time around 99% men – quickly realized her ambitions and started motivating her to become a pilot herself. Those were still the times, Fanni says, where she as woman thought that this would be impossible. A lot of common myths came into her mind – I’m not great at math’s or with technical fields. But her colleagues said – stop it, you can do it! Just try it! During a stop-over in Stockholm, they took her to fly the Boeing 737 flight simulator, and Fanni was hooked. She wanted to become a pilot.
So, 2004 she decided to take five weeks off to dive deeper into the aviator’s life by trying to fly small airplanes as a first step in the USA. Well, that was the plan. At the end of this five weeks she passed her PPL at record speed at Phoenix East Aviation Flight School in Florida. She’s still surprised how she was able to do that. With the PPL under her belt, she returned to Austria, quit her job as a flight attendant, caught her then 5-year old daughter and moved to Florida for one and a half years to pursue her training.
As a single mom, it wasn’t always easy, but she managed to succeed with her little family. Her ATPL she did in Oslo, Norway and immediately landed a job at German AirBerlin as a pilot of an Airbus 320 in 2007. But Fanni always wanted to go back to Austria, especially as her daughter was growing older and started school. So, they moved back after just six months. Fanni did her Flight Instructor and Citation rating and began working at an Austrian Flight School, based at LOAN airport in Wiener Neustadt. Yes, that’s where the headquarters of Diamond Aircraft are and that’s where she got to know the company closer.
For seven years she worked as a Citation co-pilot and as a flight instructor in Austria. With her now teenage daughter being at a boarding school for high-performance sports, faraway lands were calling again, and she left for a job as Ground and Flight Instructor at a Jordanian flight school, followed by one year at CAE Oxford in England, where she was responsible for the EasyJet MPL program.
In 2017 the aviatrix received her second child and went on maternal leave. 2018 she was recruited by Emirates Flight Training in Dubai. Meanwhile having married, her husband was there to support her, went on maternal leave and moved with his wife and kid to Dubai. Though Fanni was very happy with her job, she started thinking of moving back to Austria again. That’s when MEBAA Business Aviation Show took place and she met Diamond employees telling her that Diamond Austria was looking for someone in their Flight Operations department and that she could fit with her multifaceted know-how. Fanni applied and landed the job in 2019. Today, after becoming a pilot at the age of 28, she is looking back at 3,000 flight hours on many different airplanes, of which 2,000 she has flown as a Flight Instructor.
With such an impressive career path, we had to invite Fanni for an interview.

What was your first flight as a pilot?
This was my first solo flight in Florida at New Smyrna Beach with a Cherokee Warrior. OMG was I excited.

How many airplane types have you flown?
Oh, a lot - let me count. As for multi engine planes there are the Airbus 320, Citation C525, DA42, DA62, Seminole, Seneca, Golden Eagle and Twin Otter. Singles I flew are Aquila, Katana, DA40, Extra-300, Cessna 152, 172 and 182 as well as the 210. Yes, and the fabulous DA50 RG. So, I’ve flown about 17 different aircraft.

What's your most memorable flight?
That is easy. That was in 2009 or 2010 to Telluride in Colorado during a flight trip across the US with friends in a DA40. If you know Telluride, then you know why. The airstrip is on 9,000 ft sea level. The highest commercial airport in the US.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities at Diamond Aircraft and what do you like about working for the company?
Every day is different. I’ll have to cope with tasks, I didn’t experience before. It’s always exciting and never gets boring. And that’s what I love the most about my work at Diamond. From ferry flights and working at airshows to demonstration tours and customer handovers as well as customer trainings. I’m getting to know so many different places, people and cultures all over the world. The diversity of the job, all the different challenges, the international environment, the work with all these state-of-the-art aircraft - my job at Diamond is just a perfect fit to me. I couldn’t image any better job. I would keep on doing it until my retirement.

What is your greatest achievement at Diamond Aircraft?
An absolutely fantastic and exciting DA62 ferry flight from our facility in China to Diamond Austria. I flew all the way alone and learned so much I didn’t know before. The language barrier was definitely a challenge.  

A lot is changing in terms of ‘Women in Aviation’. Still, it’s a male dominated industry. So, did you experience any struggles and challenges during and after having finished your pilot’s license from a female perspective?
Yes, quite a bit. Not during training, but with airline selections. Imagine, you are young, a pilot, a flight instructor and a woman and then there are mainly men and a good portion of them much older than you. First thought is ‘Woah, looks like I am the exception here’. So yes, I heard the one or the other thing typical for male dominated industries.

What is it like working in a male-dominated environment?
You experience all kind of things. From admiration to people being less happy to see a woman flying. People are mainly impressed how women manage multiple tasks – children, household, career. Through support within the family and women’s networks, more and more women succeed in male-dominated environments.

Do passengers react differently to a female pilot?
Yes, they absolutely do. Most of the times they are very positive and interested.

What do you think, how can women be more accepted in a male dominated pilot industry?
Be authentic and speak up. An experienced female pilot once told me - ’The aircraft doesn’t know if it’s a female or male hand controlling it. Equal qualifications should give equal the chances’. Though I think there is still a long way to go, you can see that more and more companies are sensitive about this topic.

You are a member of the Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots. How did that come?
I joined the Arabic Section of the Ninety-Nines in 2015 during my time at the Jordanian flight school. One of the former employees, the Governor of the Arabic Section, hired me – so to speak. I was immediately drawn into this women power in the Middle East. Just incredible, all of them are such powerful female pilots. Two years later I was asked if I wanted to lead the Austrian Section. It was just a no-brainer and I have been the Governor since then.

What do you like the most about being a Ninety-Nine?
I love everything about the social networking and wonderful mentoring you can experience as a woman in aviation at the Ninety-Nines. It’s such a safe place to exchange about the difficulties of being a woman in the aviation industry. Each year we gather at an international meeting in a different country. We have been to Petra in Jordan, Cairo, Malawi and Tansania. You meet so many inspiring women. I can definitely recommend every girl or woman out there working in aviation to join this great organization.

Any advice or wise words to future female aviators?
Just go for it. If you want to be it, go for it. As I said, be authentic and speak up.

Do you have an aviation hero?
Yes, Nivedita Bashin, the youngest woman commercial commander of a jet in the world, at Air India. Historywise she is a fascinating pioneer. We are talking about the 1960’s. I met her at the Ninety Nines. She is incredibly inspiring and motivating and a great friend.

Fanni’s Top-5 Choices

What’s your favorite flying destination?
In Europe I love Mali Losinj, Croatia. My choice for the rest of the world would be Key West, Florida, USA. Both because of the very special scenery – fascinating runways next to the water with challenging slopes. Just very exciting approaches. Always makes my heart beat faster.

What’s your favorite airport?
Vienna. As it always means coming home. Everything about my job is beautiful and it’s a lot of fun, but coming home is always something special.

What’s your favorite Diamond aircraft?
The DA62. She’s looking great, is incredibly comfy, classy, beautifully finished and just a dream to fly. The DA62 would be the aircraft I would buy for myself.

What's the best piece of flying advice given to you?
First fly the aircraft. In every sense, no matter which flight situation you are in, concentrate on flying the aircraft. Aviate, navigate, communicate!

What's the one thing you always pack for every flight?
A Ladybag, the sister of TravelJohn. Just google it.

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