DENVER (CBS4) - United Airlines operated Flight 2392 from Denver to Kalispel, Montana on Thursday with an all-female flight team. The airline says the all-female flight celebrates the talented women who already work in those positions and how they can inspire another generation to join a traditionally male-dominated industry.
"The people that are doing the work behind the scenes, the women today, the dispatchers, the rampers, the mechanics, the flight attendants, the people who clean the cabin, the people who are catering the aircraft, they're all women," said United Captain M'Liss Ward, one of the two pilots in the cockpit for the flight.
Ward says she is among 20 black women who are pilots for the airline. "The whole idea is to find a career field that challenges you, that you have fun doing, and that gives you the lifestyle you want to have."
United hosted an event on the B concourse of DIA to celebrate the new chapter and let employees in Denver come together for the all-female flight team.
This comes as the company launches a new chapter of its business resource group, uIMPACT, to improve diversity, inclusion, and gender equality.
Earlier in the week the airline announced that it would train 5,000 pilots by 2030, United is the only major airline in the U.S. with its own flight school. The company told CBS News at least half of those trainees would be women or people of color.
"We want to really encourage the younger female generation and younger people of color to entertain an aviation career," said United Captain Heather Loomis, a pilot for more than 30 years who was also on that flight. "It's really fun, it's exciting, everyday is different, and it's really rewarding and lucrative."
Only six percent of pilots and flight engineers are women, CBS News reported this week. United said seven percent of its women are pilots, which is one of the highest percentages in the industry.
"It's a puzzle piece, it's how you can move the traffic around, how you can get them to the gate and out of the gate as soon as possible," said Tania Brusseau, a stations operations representative who is a ramp tower controller.
She has been in the business for more than 23 years and helps planes arrive and depart from gates, she works separately from FAA air traffic controllers who supervise takeoffs and landings. When CBS4 visited her on the job, she was watching over United planes on the south side of the B Concourse.
"It's been progressing, women have been getting more and more in the airline industry, it's fun to see all of that happen," she said.
Columbia Jenkins is another United employee who helped the flight from Operations Control, where she monitors and dispatches flights as a gate manager. She was also singled out at the celebration by the gate for this flight because her mother is also an employee for the airline.
"It's a step toward further removing barriers, and definitely breaking the glass ceiling for stereotypes of a male dominated field," she told CBS4. "I feel that I can represent women in a respectable manner to show the light that we are capable as well."
The women working the flight not only took pride in the fact that they were an all-female team but also understood the responsibility they have to encourage young girls and other women to join them in a similar career path.
"If you have a desire, go for it, you're limitless, you can do anything that you desire," Jenkins said. "Nothing is holding you back, you can definitely just take that adventure and go for it."
Before takeoff, members of the team gathered under the plane while it was still at its gate to take another photo of all the women on the team.
This moment highlighted that even the staff taking care of baggage and the technicians inspecting the plane before it is given the all clear were also women. Crews at the airport sent the flight off in style with a water gun salute as it prepared to leave Denver.
"There are jobs for women in aviation, all you have to do is inquire, we're ready to help you get to wherever you want to be," Ward said. "There is no better view, office view, than up here in the flight deck. This is the best job you could ever have."
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