Look up, it’s ’er Lingus

The Times We Lived In – Published: September 29th, 1977. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

What with the perfect eyebrows, the flowery shirt and the “Lovely Girls” smile, you might take this woman for a model. Well, a) shame on you. And b) you’re quite right. She is, or was, a role model for all young women.

The caption reads: “Miss Grainne Cronin of Malahide, Co Dublin, at the controls of a pilot trainer at Dublin airport yesterday during her first day as Aer Lingus’s first woman trainee pilot.”

The story adds that Grainne was following in the footsteps of her father, Captain Felim Cronin, “a native of Ennis, Co Clare, who is also a pilot”. She was 24 years old when this picture was taken; just over a decade later she would become the airline’s first female captain. When she retired in 2010 after 30 years in the air, she was accurately described by Aer Lingus as “a trail blazer”.

“All I’ve done is fly and bring up a family,” she told this newspaper’s Gerry Byrne when she retired in 2010. For our money, that’s a definition of feminism in action right there. Her daughters Alana and Louisa also qualified as pilots, which is incredibly unusual even now.


Two years ago, only 5 per cent of British Airways pilots were women. For Aer Lingus the figure is currently running at closer to 10 per cent, higher than the global average; to mark International Women’s Day last year, the airline ran a special Dublin-London flight with an all-female crew, Captain Louise Gilroy and First Officer Amy Cunningham, and there have been a number of campaigns in Ireland in recent years to encourage young women to take to the skies.

As to whether it’s a good time or a bad time to do that, well, the jury is still out - not just here but in the US, where many regional airlines have been short of pilots for years. So let’s enjoy this picture of a happy, smiling trainee pilot, regardless of her gender, and hope that there are many more in the pipeline for the years to come.

These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from: irishtimes.com/photosales. A book, The Times We Lived In, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is in bookshops now priced €19.99