Irrepressible will-power

Isabelle PY graduated from UTC in 1987, majoring in computer sciences and applications (UTC-GI) (elective specialty automated production), and, after a short initial professional period with SESA (forerunner of CAPGEMINI), is now a fully qualified airline pilot, now Flight Captain with Air France. Here is her portrait – a woman with clear ideas, strong passions and irrepressible will-power.

Irrepressible will-power

Clear ideas? Isabelle PY demonstrated this as of the age of 10. "I knew I wanted to pilot an aircraft, ride horses and go scuba-diving. I succeeded in doing all three".

Her taste for aeronautics? This came from the female side, her great grand-mother and her mother. The first mentioned was employed by UAT (aero-marine union). The second was with TAI (intercontinental air transportation). "Well, to be honest with you, there were no pilots in the family. But when I was very young I loved travelling, I loved taking the plane and was often allowed in the cockpit wen there were no seats left in the passenger cabin. All of which seemed marvellous to me: ATC exchanges in English, of which I understood nothing! and all those little lights in the cockpit", added Isabelle.

Clear ideas? She also showed this when applying for admission to UTC. "I was a student doing a DUT (university diploma of technology) and to pursue studies in an engineering school you had to rank in the top ten of your class - which I did!" She also showed her grit and resolve in choosing her major and selective specialty at UTC.

She was admitted to UTC in 1984, à l'UTC, "an open university that offers students a personalised "à la carte" training course, where you learn to be autonomous and top work in a team". She chose the major Computer science and its applications (UTC-GI) with as her elective specialty, automated production. "I wanted to take up a technical profession and above all to avoid any jobs with a distinctly feminine connotation", she adds.

By chance, falling of a horse's back made her change from riding lessons to gliders and that was an eye-opener, 'love at first sight' moment. "As of my very first glider take-off from the airfield at Margny-les-Compiegne, I decided that flying was what I really wanted to do", she adds assuredly.As of that day, a passion was born and which was to be nourished by every means possible. Taking flying lessons is expensive, but Isabelle manage to be appointed to a long internship with Dassault Aviation (at their design office in Saint-Cloud) where she was able to gain her Basic License (Brevet de Base).

But she did not stop there. Next target? Private Pilot's License (valid at aero clubs). Again the target was met, via another long placement with Dassault Aviation, with another in-house service. After 50 hours certifying flight training and with her Pilot's license, she set off to fly across the Mediterranean with some friends in a small 4 seater plane. On one hand the passion and, on the other, an irrepressible will.

After graduating from UTC in 1987, Isabelle PY was recruited by SESA but soon realized that the world of computer sciences and applications was not "her cup of tea". "I spent all my free time and my wages flying", she adds. To live out her dreams, she registered for the competitive exam giving admission to ENAC (national civil aviation school) in the option "airline pilot". Continuing to work with SESA, in a period of 12 months she successfully completed her theoretical certificates for the airline pilots' license and stated her practical flight training at the SFACT, Montpellier in 1989. Four days after resigning from CAP-SEA, early in 1991, she was recruited by Air France, a company that employs numerous UTC graduates, to the point that Isabelle entertained "the idea of creating an Air France UTC alumni Club", she adds jokingly.

Isabelle PY was recruited by Air France first as a co-pilot, followed by promotion to the rank of Flight Captain (for long-haul flights) in 2007, since which date she has never stopped crisscrossing the skies. Do she have a wish to share? "I would like to see young women stop self-censoring themselves and start living out their dreams: where there is a will, anything is possible" says Captain PY.


  • 1984: Admitted to UTC
  • 1987: Graduated from UTC
  • 1989: Admitted to ENAC
  • 1991: Recruited by Air France
  • 2007: Promoted Flight Captain (long haul flights) for Air France