Captain Smadar Shechter (left) and First Officer Meirav Schwartz helped the Tel Aviv to Cyprus flight. Captain Smadar Shechter (left) and First Officer Meirav Schwartz helped the Tel Aviv to Cyprus flight. Captain Smadar Shechter (left) and First Officer Meirav Schwartz made history last week. (Photo: Courtesy of El Al)

This airline just made history with its first all-female flight crew

The occasion was a rare one in the male-dominated aviation industry.

An El Al Airlines plane headed from Israel to Cyprus this past Thursday was supposed to just be another routine flight – only it turned out to be extraordinary. That's because the two pilots of the plane were female, a rarity in the aviation industry, and a first for the Israel-based air carrier.

Captain Smadar Shechter and First Officer Meirav Schwartz were the women who piloted the plane. When the announcement the flight crew would be an all-female affair, passengers broke out in applause.

When exactly the first all-female flight crew piloted a commercial airliner is uncertain, but Frontier Airlines is thought to have been the first U.S. airline to do it, in 1984. This event didn't however presage any shift in the industry.

According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, there are roughly 130,000 commercial airline pilots worldwide, of which just 4,000 are female. The number shrinks in the case of those women who are captains, with the group speculating less than 500 women carry that title.

In recent years United Airlines and two African airlines have made headlines for having all-female flight crews, but in each case it was a pre-calculated move on the part of the carrier.

Not so with El Al, as the two women were booked on the flight together by chance. Shechter told local media it was simply a matter of circumstance. "I had to switch flights, and when I arrived at the airport I suddenly saw I was booked with Meirav. That's how we found ourselves suddenly together before takeoff. Of course, we were both very excited."

MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE:

Photos and SlideshowsPhotos and Slideshows

Related Topics: Travel