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. 

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 

Le magazine

Juin 2023 - N°60

Une recherche tournée vers un avenir soutenable

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