Women in Aviation: Monica of Arabia—the 777 Captain!





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Ladies and Gents,

Welcome aboard Part 2 of our

Women in/of/about Aviation series!

Today we have a surprise guest: Captain Monica Vargas, who not only has shattered gender barriers in countries around the world, but has climbed her way into one of the Holiest of Grails in the airline industry: the Left Seat of a Boeing 777. What’s more, she now flies as a captain in the Middle East, an area that still harbors pockets of traditional male bias, and open oppression of women.

Folks, I give you: Captain Monica Vargas!

Monica V

“Many eyes are watching us, the foreigner female Captains who fly without a burka and are permitted to look men in the eyes.”Captain Vargas

How many times have you had a female pilot as your Captain? Lots of times? Just a few? None at all?

It probably depends on which side of the hemisphere you live…

image7-1I started flying in Colombia 26 years ago as a teenager. I was 19, and only the fourth woman to be hired by my country’s major airline. My first years were basically a period of proving myself to peers—Captains that were my dad’s age, and not very open-minded at that time. Once I earned the reputation of being a good professional in the cockpit, however, they started to show respect towards me as a pilot.

I had to prove myself as a pilot with my peers, and with a whole culture that has historically seen women as inferiors.

  Years passed by, and for various reasons I moved to Chile. Soon after, I had the fortune to be hired by their major airline. It was like starting all over again. Chile didn’t have too many female pilots—perhaps for cultural reasons, or maybe chauvinism for certain jobs considered unsuitable for women—but again I was the fourth Female Captain to be working in a traditionally all-male environment. This time, being a woman wasn’t the only issue, but also being a foreigner. The only fact that helped me cope with the situation was that I was no longer a copilot, but the pilot in command.

  Last year, I took a job with a major Gulf airline. I hadn’t applied to any other airline, because I wasn’t interested in moving again, and mainly because I had a dream job at the moment. Nevertheless, here I am, flying in the Gulf, Pilot in Command of a B777 and flying around the world.

  How has it been? Difficult, not only professionally, even though I have the skills required, but as a woman. Again it has been different, not only because I had to prove myself as a pilot with my peers, but with a whole culture that has historically seen women as inferiors in all terms.

Being the sole female pilot on board, every flight is a “checkride”

  CRM (Crew Resource Management) has become critical to me for all flights—longer briefings, debriefings, and meetings during layovers. Why? Because, flying with 2 full flight deck crews (4 pilots total), with me being the sole female pilot on board, every flight for me is a “checkride” done by the other 3, many times questioning my decisions.

  You need more than a strong character to be here. The airlines in the Gulf are hiring not just pilots, but people capable of mingling with peers from different cultures, political and religious views, leaders that are willing to preserve Safety over their personal beliefs and egos. That’s what I have shown: respect for their culture, but also a strong and firm leadership that shows them that we, women, are equals in a cockpit; that we don’t need to believe the same things to be able to respect each other’s criteria concerning our job.


This has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience in my career, transporting hundreds of passengers & following rules in a country that limits our freedom.

  This has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience in my career, transporting hundreds of passengers daily, flying each time with different crew members, dealing with the language and  accents, and following rules—not only from my employer, but from a country that limits our freedom in many ways.

image4-1  Is it worthwhile? Definitely. In this past year, I have grown to be a much better professional and person, I have made it my goal to help open the doors widely to the upcoming women that want to enroll and work for these major airlines in the Gulf.

Many eyes are watching us, the foreigner female Captains who fly without a burka and are permitted to look men in the eyes. Fearless, full of self-confidence in their knowledge of the aircraft and of the environment that surrounds our job. Female Captains have conquered a culture, and to be able to survive, we have to strive to be “better” than anyone else.

MV image2We have to become neutral, and adapt a clay-type personality that integrates well with every crew we fly with.

  The world is waiting, and the opportunities are immeasurable, so if you feel the need to expand, here’s the place to open up your wings and leave a trace in the sky.

Note: Captain Vargas has a very popular Twitter account at @vargasmoni

Thank you, Captain, for your very enlightening, informative and inspiring post! While I’m not surprised to still find such archaic gender bias out there, it is encouraging to know that pioneering women such as yourself continue to shatter those foolish views, simply by being the strong leader you are! We look forward to the day when women are viewed worldwide as fully equal to men in all aspects, both in and out of the cockpit.—Cap’n Aux


Aladzhi (Twitter: @Aladzhi007)


Many of my blog articles—such as Captain Vargas’s story—come from suggestions by Blog Buddies like YOU!

From a simple blog post to the aviation news stories on our “Word on the Ramp” videos, YOU are the Worldwide Correspondents of the Cap’n Aux blog, and without you, our page wouldn’t be nearly as rich.


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of Abuja, Nigeria, for your help with today’s story!

—  —  —  —

Women of Aviation Series Posts

Related Cap’n Aux Posts

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Departing all month

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More Aviation Adventures of the Feminine Kind, with . . .

—Jessica Cox (Rightfooted.com)

—Miss TWA (MissTWA.blogspot.com)

—Karlene Petitt (Karlenepetitt.com)

—Dianna Stanger

—”Sky Chick” Ramona Cox (Skychick.com)

And more surprises!

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