A pathfinder for women in aviation | Queen’s Birthday Honours 2019

A present from her father of flying lessons for her 16th birthday set Deborah Lawrie of Monterey on a course for a career in aviation.

Ms Lawrie discovered a passion for aviation and went on to be a pilot for Ansett, KLM and Tigerair.

For her efforts, Ms Lawrie has been appointed a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours for her significant service to aviation as a commercial pilot, and to women in the profession.

Ms Lawrie started her career in aviation as a charter pilot in 1975 and became the first female commercial pilot with a major Australian airline in 1978.

This followed a 15-month battle with Ansett Airlines to be accepted as a pilot when the Equal Opportunity Board ruled that Ansett had discriminated against her because she was female.

She worked as a pilot with Ansett Australia and was a captain with KLM Cityhopper and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines from 1994 to 2008.

Following this, she was Flight Safety Manager and Chief Investigator for KLM from 2008 to 2010.

Ms Lawrie joined Jetstar Airways in 2012 as Captain of the A320 and was Jetstar’s Manager, Safety Investigations from 2008 to 2010.

She joined Tigerair as a captain in 2012 and has been a Check-A Captain with Tigerair since 2015.

She is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and is a former member of the National Council of Australian Air Force Cadets and former chairman of the European Regions Air Safety Working Group.

Her interest in aviation started when she visited Moorabbin airport as a 14 year old.

“My father took flying lessons as a hobby and I helped him learn his checklists,” she said.

“He promised me two flying lessons for my 16th birthday. After that I was on my own and had to save up myself for more lessons.

“I wanted to show my father I could fly and I became passionate about it in the process.

“There are many highlights in my career – the first time I flew a jet, flying overseas with KLM after the pilots’ dispute, and upgrading to Captain in 1994.

“I think the most enjoyable times have been when children have visited the cockpit. I love their fascination and their questions.

“To become a pilot you need to be passionate about flying. There are a lot of sacrifices that will need to be made along the way but these will be rewarded one-hundredfold in the end.

“For the girls, be true to who you are and work hard. Respect as a pilot is earned and cannot be demanded.

“I feel I have been a pathfinder for the women who wanted aviation as a career.

“I am very honoured to be presented with an AM. Recognition of my career in aviation and as a role model for women pilots makes me proud to be an Australna and is a wonderful acknowledgement of my passion for aviation.”