Mar 31, 2013 News Comments Off on Paving the way for women pilots, Cheryl Moore is a ‘Special Person’
“Women can take on just about any career, providing that they are prepared to put in the hard work and remain focused.”
By Sharmain Grainger
There are but a few women who can be named among those who were able to penetrate what some would describe as ‘a man’s world’ thereby paving the way for others to easily follow today. One such champion of women is no other than Cheryl Moore who can be safely dubbed one of the pioneers in this regard.
With more than 30 years under her belt in the aviation industry, Mrs. Moore has been recognized as one of the better female pilots to have emerged from these shores. Her journey has seen her hopping into the cockpit of one of the smallest Cessna aircraft and transitioning airplanes as big as the Dash 8 300 (50-seater).
Born to parents Layard and Pearl Pickering on December 14, 1950, Cheryl, the fifth of eight siblings, grew up in Station Street, Kitty, Georgetown, and lived there until she met and married her sweetheart Stanley Moore in 1977, after which she moved to Section K, Campbellville, another area of Georgetown. She subsequently moved to Meadow Brook Gardens where she remained until she migrated years later.
Cheryl attended the then Comenius Moravian Primary School which was located in Queenstown, Georgetown, after which she was a student of the St. Joseph High.
Her first career move was to become a Pupil Teacher with the Ministry of Education which would see her being placed in 1968 at the Malgre Tout Government School on the West Bank of Demerara. A year later she took up an appointment at the University of Guyana as a Typist Clerk/Secretary in the Faculty of Law at the University of Guyana.
However in 1973 she made the bold move of venturing into the Guyana Defence Force and assumed the position of Personal Assistant to the then Commander, Colonel Ulric Pilgrim. She was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in January 1974. At the time there were not many female officers, and apart from carrying out the duties as Personal Assistant to the Commander, she conducted interviews, assessments and training for new inductees in the Women’s Army Corps.
She remembers, as Second Lieutenant, being the colour ensign in the first all-female Guard of Honour which was assembled at the then Timehri International Airport, in 1975, during the visit of the world’s first elected woman prime minister, Sri Lanka’s Sirimavo Bandaranaike.
Prior to that event all colour parties consisted of male soldiers only.
Being a standout officer in the military did not allow Cheryl to remain idle, but rather she considered diligently how she could elevate herself. Her next logical move was to attend the University of Guyana where she commenced the Diploma programme in Social Work. But it was soon after starting this activity that she would be given the opportunity of a lifetime.
She recalled that this chance came knocking in 1975, which was designated International Women’s Year. This was the year that the government decided to grant scholarships to several females to attend flight school to qualify as pilots.
Cheryl opines that it was perhaps her “fearless and adventurous” nature that enhanced her chance of selection for the scholarship. In fact, some time before her selection, she was involved in a GDF demonstration of the Bell helicopter, in which she was let down on a rope from the side of the helicopter.
Although she had never envisaged a career in flying, she recalled that it was following the selection process that she and Beverley Drake, along with 10 others, were awarded scholarships to attend the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Daytona Campus in the United States in 1976. The campus is rated as the world’s number one learning institution in the areas of aviation and aerospace studies.
Reminiscing on the intense one-year training course, Cheryl noted that it was a new experience “but there were 12 of us in the group and we had each other…we just had to buckle-down and study hard. It was the kind of programme that you really had to apply yourself in order to succeed,” she recounted.
In fact the first plane she piloted was the Cessna 172 when she commenced flight training. That experience, she noted, was preceded by numerous simulations, which prepared her to be exposed to the actual aircraft flying experience and according to her “once you go up into the air it is somewhat different, but certainly not terrifying”.
She recalled acquiring her private pilot’s licence after flying a single engine aircraft before transitioning to a multi-engine aircraft.
In fact she disclosed that “Beverley (Drake) and I were the first two trainees of the group to complete our course of study. We were also the first two females, to the best of my knowledge, who obtained a commercial pilot’s licence in Guyana.”
While a student of Embry-Riddle she was taught to fly using the Visual Flight Rules (VFR) as well as Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). Her studies also included the areas of navigation, aerodynamics, aircraft systems, meteorology, flight planning and aircraft performance. She was also required to participate further in an advanced course in ground school and pilot maintenance.
At the end of her training she received certification for the Commercial Pilot Airplane Single and Multi-Engine Land with instrument privileges.
Her return to Guyana was in January of 1977, at which point she was required to undertake conversion training in order to acquire a local commercial pilot licence. The training was a little different from what was done at Embry-Riddle, as according to Cheryl, “every aircraft that you fly, you need to do a technical for it, then you are required to do flight training, because although the principles of flight would be the same, one needs to be familiar with the aircraft systems and emergency procedures.”
Armed with her pilot’s licence, Cheryl was now part of the Guyana Defence Force’s Air Corps, and in fact served as its Executive Officer for a period of seven months. As a pilot she was able to soar the skies in the Twin Otter Britten-Norman Islander, Avro and the DHC-8. She noted that while Skyvans came into play a few years late, it was the Islander that was the primary mode of transporting soldiers and supplies while she served.
Cheryl recalled that although there were not many female officers, and no female pilots within the military at the time that she joined the Guyana Defence Force, at no point was she subjected to situations of gender bias.
“I would say I was treated fairly, but in any profession you are going to have challenges, whether you are male or female. I would not attribute any of the challenges that I had in my career to being a female.
It was a level playing field.”
She reflected that at no point was her decision to learn to fly one of regret, and in fact, in 1980 she was seconded to Guyana Airways where she was tasked with undertaking numerous commercial flights, mainly to interior locations using bigger aircraft. This phase of her flying career even saw her touching down on the shores of Trinidad and Barbados at times. She even fondly recalled piloting a chartered flight to Cayenne to transport a team of football players.
She remained with Guyana Airways until 1989 and the same year opted to join the LIAT (1974) Ltd team, where she served as a pilot up until February of last year, when she retired.
During her tenure at LIAT, which saw her being based between Antigua and Barbados, she was licenced to fly Twin Otter, Hawker Siddeley HS 748 and DeHavilland Dash 8 aircraft throughout the entire Eastern Caribbean, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and many times she returned to her homeland too.
Interesting to note, was while engaged in this level of her flying career, Cheryl sought to read for a Degree in Business Administration which saw her majoring in Human Resource Management at the American InterContinental University.
Opting to pilot for LIAT was not without its challenges, however, as on numerous occasions Cheryl was required to be away from her home and family on job-related trips. However she found assurance in the fact that “I have been very fortunate to have a husband who has been very supportive.” No stranger to the public eye, Mr. Moore has over the years firmly established his place within the legal fraternity, practicing privately and also serving in the judiciary. Being a sports enthusiast, he functioned as President of the Guyana Amateur Boxing Association and also did sports commentary for many years, primarily in cricket and football.
In Cheryl’s view, “women can take on just about any career providing that they are prepared to put in the hard work and remain focused…If you have children you would need a good support system in place to ensure your children are well taken care of during the times you are away from home.”
This is particularly important for one endeavouring to be a pilot, as according to the mother of five (Susan, Adrian, Alfred, Alex and Andrew)”as a pilot you cannot afford to be worrying because you have to be focused on what you are doing…flying is a very high concentration-level job and so you don’t need to take any stress into the cockpit with you.”
Emphasising the importance of remaining focused on the job, Cheryl recalled an experience when an aircraft developed technical difficulties that required the shutting down of one engine. On that occasion she was First Officer on a LIAT flight which had left Barbados for St Vincent.
She explained that twin-engine airplanes are quite capable of flying on one engine in cases of emergency; “all you have to do is follow the relevant emergency procedures which you are trained to do. That is exactly what we did and we were able to land safely… it was no sweat.”
In addition to adhering to the various procedures, Cheryl also amplified the need to take all safety precautions, adding that paying close attention to the weather is essential when taking to the skies.
“You have to check your weather every day for each of your destinations and alternates,” she firmly insisted adding “if before you leave you know the weather is not going to be good at your destination then you don’t go until it gets better.”
Cheryl, whose residency crisscrosses between Barbados and Florida in the United States, recently made the trip back home to celebrate 100 years of Aviation in Guyana, with her former colleagues. And during this interview, she excitedly alluded to the fact that Guyana has moved from Non-Directional Beacons back in the day to modernized navigational aids today. In fact, she stressed that with the support of Global Positioning Systems “it is a lot easier to fly now.” She also claimed to be pleasantly surprised by the plans for the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport which will allow for larger aircraft to land in Guyana, thus signaling financial positives as well.
Although the aviation industry has been her pride over the years, which has even seen her participating at numerous career day activities in secondary schools and church youth groups, with specific emphasis on careers in aviation, she also served as Director of the Guyana Public Service Workers’ Credit Union for in excess of six years reviewing and approving loan applications.
She was also a board member of the ‘210’Assemblies of God Church for many years, during which time she served as an executive member of the women’s ministry. In fact she was also instrumental in setting up a feeding programme for the less fortunate children in Durban Backlands. Currently she is a member of the Restoration Ministries in Barbados and serves in the women’s and children’s ministries, providing counseling and assistance for the needy.
What an example. What a special person!
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