Breaking Barriers: A Conversation With Captain Emma Heering

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we had the pleasure of speaking with Captain Emma Heering, a trailblazing female pilot who has been flying for over a decade.

Currently, Captain Emma Heering flies the luxurious VistaJet Challenger 605, a Bombardier jet with a range of eight flying hours and a spacious cabin that seats up to 12 passengers.

With her extensive experience and passion for aviation, Captain Emma Heering is a true inspiration for women in the industry.

Born and raised in the UK, Captain Emma Heering has always had a fascination with flying. Her journey to become a pilot began with a love of Thunderbirds as a young girl, followed by extensive flight training.

Since joining VistaJet, she has flown all over the world, from the bustling cities of Asia to the picturesque landscapes of Europe, with a keen eye for detail and a commitment to providing a seamless flying experience for her passengers.

As a woman in a male-dominated field, Captain Emma Heering has faced her fair share of challenges, but she remains undeterred in pursuing her passion for aviation.

Her dedication and perseverance have earned her the respect of her peers and passengers alike, and she is a shining example of what can be achieved through hard work and determination.

We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to speak with Captain Emma Heering and learn more about her journey as a pilot and her thoughts on the role of women in aviation.

Breaking Barriers: A Conversation with Captain Emma Heering

What Inspired You To Become A Pilot, And What Challenges Did You Face As A Woman In The Industry?

I was speaking with my parents about this the other day and the only thing that really sprung to all of our minds was how much I used to love Thunderbirds as a young girl, even though the only female representation was Lady Penelope who never even flew the planes.

Actually, my favourite aircraft is the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, which looks like the Thunderbird 2 aircraft.  

As for my role models, I come from a seafaring background — everyone was in the sea, rather than the air! But my parents have always been great role models and very supportive of my decision to make my Thunderbirds dream to become a reality, even when teachers like my old maths teacher thought I was talking nonsense.

I bumped into her many years later in my hometown and she asked what I was up to… I told her that I was a pilot and she looked so shocked. This is the reaction I expected as it’s the kind of reaction we get as female pilots, people are always surprised.

There will always be people who judge me based on my appearance and the fact that I am female. However, my belief is that if I get on with it and do the job well, it tends to prove otherwise, change opinions and demonstrate that I am undisputedly just as capable as anyone else.

How Has Your Career As A Pilot Evolved Over The Past Ten Years, And What Have Been Some Of The Highlights?

I joined VistaJet 10 years ago as a First Officer and four years later I earned my bars as a Captain. I have been fortunate enough to have many highlights over the years at VistaJet.

The first would have to be the first time I ever took off as Captain on the left seat. It’s such a responsibility and so much pride comes with knowing that you are trusted to manage the beautiful machine that is the Challenger 605 and the lives on board. I can remember just thinking “all of that studying, late nights, and time away from family has paid off!”

Breaking Barriers: A Conversation with Captain Emma Heering

Another would be when I went on maternity leave to be with my son. He is my priority and my world but I remember my first day back on the job and the exhilarating feeling I experienced when I was airborne again… a feeling that overrode the nervousness of hoping I still remembered how to fly!

Being a mother in general is the main highlight for me. The fact that I can work part-time means my son gets more valuable time with me because when I am at home, I am 100% his. I can spend my whole off-block with him instead of just an evening or a weekend.

As well as a supportive company, I am lucky to have a supportive family too which enables me to have my cake and eat it. I am hard working and ambitious in my work and the best mum I can be with an amazing support system for both my son and our family.

As A VistaJet Captain, What Are Some Of The Unique Challenges You Face When Flying To Different Parts Of The World?

Wherever we land in the world the first person I see waiting for me at the bottom of the aircraft stairs is a handling agent or representative. I always like to meet everyone with a smile and a hello, making every effort to learn a greeting and a thank you in as many languages as I can.

The same goes when greeting and providing for our passengers, it’s incredibly important for me to respect and learn about other cultures. This can be quite the task when we fly to so many destinations around the world with such a large mix of cultures and nationalities.

We also travel to some very remote destinations and ensuring that we can receive the necessary services with something as simple as fuel or an external wash for the aircraft requires planning and foresight.

How Do You Stay Healthy And Well While Flying Frequently, And What Advice Do You Have For Others Who Want To Maintain Their Well-Being While Travelling?

Yoga is one of my favourite ways to relax. Even after an eight-hour flight, I can stretch in my room to relieve any stress — this helps me combat jet lag take care of my back after all those hours on the flight deck and find the rhythm in my routine. I also drink a lot of water and have a daily skincare routine — it’s easy to forget how dry it can be on a plane.

My advice to regular fliers would be to eat healthily, avoid too much alcohol and replace this with water and exercise — good for the mind and soul.

What Are Some Of The Benefits Of Flying Private Over Commercial, And How Does VistaJet Offer A Luxury Travel Experience?

The flexibility and adaptability that come with flying private are unparalleled. As a pilot, flying commercially means flying to the same destinations. Whereas, flying private as a pilot at VistaJet means we don’t have set routes in where we are flying to. Every rotation means new destinations and therefore discovering new locations and cultures.

As for customers, business aviation offers an alternative and reliable way to travel all year round. At VistaJet, we have seen a new wave of clients — those who once opted for First Class turning to private aviation, finding comfort in the reliability, flexibility, efficiency and safety that it can offer.

At VistaJet we offer guaranteed access and availability to a Members’ fleet of over 360 aircraft — at anytime, anywhere around the world — at a fixed hourly rate, regardless of the location or time of departure of the flight. Accessing more than 1,900 airports in 187 countries, at VistaJet, we cover 96% of the globe, and clients can book with as little as 24 hours’ notice.

Our business model ensures flexibility and adaptability for our customers and their travel needs: whether it’s a direct flight from Paris to Johannesburg, from Los Angeles to Shanghai, or from Kinshasa to Ulan Bator, we seamlessly connect our clients to every corner of the world in unrivalled levels of flexibility and safety.

Some commercial journeys require three or four commercial connections, and it is not unusual to experience delayed departures: clients can lose several hours and are exhausted by control checks and lengthy boardings. Whether on a business trip or a holiday, this time is precious.

Whether the client is attending a meeting, working on business strategies or just needs time away from distractions, travelling privately with us is seamless and efficient, ensuring continued productivity.

Can You Share Some Of Your Most Memorable Experiences As A Private Jet Pilot, And What Sets These Moments Apart From Your Other Experiences?

I love the fact that no single day is the same when flying as a private Captain with VistaJet — this is something that stands out to me time and time again. I have been at VistaJet for 10 years and I still get to experience places I’ve never been to and sometimes never even heard of.

At VistaJet, we cover 96% of the globe, and we’ve flown to 1,900 airports across 187 countries — the global scale is still mind-boggling for me and demonstrates the fortitude of our operations. Another equal-element highlight is the people at VistaJet — I have so much fun with everyone. 

Another key moment for me was when I flew with my colleague Captain Elin Flemetsen Fossum on my first all-female crew on the 605, as Elin’s First Officer. The Cabin Host also had a private pilot licence (PPL) — all the girls had the ability and qualifications to fly. What’s even better is that we flew a group of all-female passengers from the Maldives to Singapore.

When we made the announcement that the ladies were being flown by an all-female crew, they were clapping and cheering for us. It’s a memory I will never forget.

What Advice Do You Have For Women Who Are Interested In Pursuing A Career In Aviation, And How Can We Encourage More Girls To Enter The Industry?

Having inspiring role models is an essential part of life because it can be hard to imagine ‘doing something’ or ‘being someone’ when you have never seen what it looks like. We rarely see female pilots in popular culture — whether that be in films, magazines and adverts. That’s why it’s so important to shine a light on the women who exist in the industry to provide visible role models to inspire girls and young women to undertake flying roles.

Since becoming a mother I am even more determined to share my experience and encourage more females to join the industry. I was always nervous that after having my son I would struggle to come back to work as I’m sure many mothers do. However, I’ve been so fortunate to have a great support group both at home with my wonderful family and also at work with my management team and the lovely people who do our rosters.

VistaJet has been very supportive and accommodating in helping me find a healthy work/personal life balance. I want other mothers, all parents really, to know that it’s possible.

I would say this to both males and females — you get what you put in. As hard as a pill that is to swallow sometimes, if you work hard, it really does pay off. What’s for you, won’t pass you by. 

I would also say to them, to persevere and keep the mental image in mind that anything is possible with a positive and driven attitude. It can be easy to feel deterred after the second rejection and the costs that come with training can be high but know that you will eventually succeed if you continue to persevere.

How Do You Balance Your Family Life With Your Demanding Job As A Captain, And What Strategies Have Worked For You?

The fact that I work part-time means my three-year-old son gets more valuable time with me when I’m off my rotation because, at the time, I am 100% his. I can spend my whole off-block with him instead of just an evening or a weekend. I am also lucky enough to have a supportive family too which enables me to have my cake and eat it.

I can be hard working and ambitious at work while also being the best mum I can be with the unwavering support from my parents and husband for both my son and our family.

How Do You Approach Safety And Security When Flying Private, And What Measures Does VistaJet Take To Ensure The Safety Of Its Passengers?

The Captain is responsible for the flight, passengers and crew. But at VistaJet it is also making sure that our Members’ journey runs smoothly from the moment they step onboard until they disembark at their final destination. paperwork, passenger and crew safety, and obtaining the relevant licences for each region.

Essentially, the Captain is the top decision maker for the whole aircraft and all the passengers but we also have the great support of our teams in maintenance and the offices in Malta and London helping and coordinating things for us. In terms of safety and security, I can elaborate further:

Pilots and crew experience

  • Every VistaJet pilot holds an EASA-type rating for the aircraft they fly, to ensure maximum familiarity and instinctive reactions to any situation.
    • Each VistaJet Pilot-in-Command has flown a minimum of 3,000 hours — (I’ve flown 5,500 total, 2,500 as Captain), received over 40 hours of classroom and trained for 28 hours of simulator training prior to conducting supervised operational experience of 10 to 20 flights. All VistaJet Cabin Hosts have a minimum of three years of First Class or equivalent experience prior to joining the company and come from culturally diverse backgrounds; speaking on average two to three languages.VistaJet pilots train twice a year in state-of-the-art simulators that include flying procedures for winter airports and real-world flight scenarios.VistaJet pilots undergo additional training including initial type rating, security, cruise relief course, firefighting, dangerous goods handling, winter operations training, and a myriad of additional in-house technical training.VistaJet pilots undergo annual checks online flying duties as well as technical refresh safety courses including ESET and CRM.VistaJet Cabin Hosts complete a 15-day training course and fly alongside a Cabin Host Trainer for 10 customer flights to monitor and manage performance and individual development — ensuring full potential is fulfilled and the customer receives the highest level of service.VistaJet Cabin Host training includes training from the British Butler Institute, MedAire, and Norland College as well as firefighting, service excellence, communication skills, food safety and hygiene, up to WSET Level 2, and advanced plating training with a top chef.
    • Safety training is completed in-house and is comprised of ESET, CRM and MedAire.

Security

  • VistaJet leads the industry in pioneering and adopting the most advanced technologies in business aviation.
    • Our proactive approach towards safety prepares us to face the requirements of your worldwide flight needs.
    • Through a dedicated safety department, VistaJet has in place a comprehensive Safety Management System (SMS) to identify, assess, and mitigate risks for a safe operation and working environment for all VistaJet clients and employees.
    • VistaJet’s industry-leading flight operations software is integrated with Osprey’s cutting-edge Flight Risk Assessment System to instantaneously assess every single flight, collecting data from 200,000 sources in 60 languages for a real-time view of global safety.
    • We look at the most efficient way to fly, with safety being the core driver. By providing even more meaningful data to our in-house experts, we are able to create a smoother flight experience for our clients. Safety is and must always be a common goal for all aviation companies, and we are proud to lead the way by adopting the most advanced innovation technologies available on the market ahead of anyone else in business aviation.
    • VistaJet partners with MedAire, the world’s leading travel risk management solution provider. With over 30 years of aviation experience, MedAire provides 24/7 expert medical and security assistance in-flight and on the ground. With leading travel risk safety solutions integrated with best-in-class assistance, crew training, medical kits and equipment, our partnership helps ensure the health and safety of those on board.
    • If customers are worried that their pet could be the one finding the flight stressful, VistaPet can arrange a four-week desensitization course, in partnership with The Dog House, to help acclimatize them to the onboard experience, including smells, sounds, turbulence and cabin air pressure.

What Are Some Of The Unique Features Of The VistaJet Challenger 605, And How Does This Aircraft Enhance The Travel Experience For Passengers?

With a range of eight flying hours and 7,400km, the beautiful Challenger 605 seats up to 12 passengers. The spacious cabin is the widest in its category, combining enhanced personal productivity with outstanding flexibility.

At VistaJet, we have upgraded our Wi-Fi connectivity across our iconic silver and red fleet with the fastest in-flight connectivity to business aviation. This upgraded Wi-Fi allows clients access to a secure ‘office in the sky’ with 24/7 digital connectivity in-flight with the ability to simultaneously stream ultra-HD content and access their full suite of connected devices, through unique bandwidth of up to 25Mbps in the United States and 15Mbps globally.

Business aviation also allows for greater privacy in the lead-up to and during flight. Confidential Board meetings can continue during travel without any intrusion or disruption. What’s more, flying privately with VistaJet as opposed to owning an aircraft in full or fraction, increases the security and anonymity for individual passengers and businesses alike as their identity cannot be tracked, ensuring maximum safety and security.

At VistaJet, all passengers can enjoy a private dining selection, created in partnership with some of the world’s most renowned chefs and restaurants, with menus that change seasonally, and wines are wisely chosen to make the sensory effects of air travel less noticeable. To escape during the journey, a wide collection of literature, curated by Heywood Hill in Mayfair, London, is available on every flight.

How Do You Approach Teamwork And Collaboration With Your Crew Members, And What Skills Are Essential For Success As A Private Jet Pilot?

We are so fortunate in this industry to work alongside such a mix of personalities, cultures and backgrounds but we also all have a passion for aviation in common. So there is never an awkward silence or a dull moment, we can always share stories of previous trips, recommendations for restaurants in different cities and of course talk about our jobs.

We spend a lot of time together on the road away from friends and family so it’s important that we support one another.

I would say essential skills on top of being hard-working and diligent would have to be perseverance and the ability to problem-solve in challenging environments. No day is ever the same in this job and the variety of flying to so many destinations around the globe has its own challenges.

The services and availability of something in Zurich versus what may be in Kinshasa are very different.

How Do You Stay Up To Date With The Latest Trends And Innovations In The Aviation Industry, And What Resources Do You Rely On For Professional Development?

As part of the training department, we always look to help our crew grow and improve at every opportunity. We do this by analysing data from the line, input from other safety reports in the industry and also liaising with manufacturers. We then implement this during biannual simulator training, via memos and instruction on the line.

What Are Your Future Goals And Aspirations As A Pilot, And How Do You Plan To Continue Pushing The Boundaries In Your Career?

It’s always a pleasure flying on the line to new destinations and learning new things so that will always be on my radar. I recently became a Type Rating Examiner so I look forward to continuing my role in the training department and meeting our new pilots as they come through the simulator.

I hope that when I’m instructing or meeting our new recruits my passion for this job shines through and motivates others to feel the same.

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