"I've always loved flying," recalls Lucy. "As a child, I would head to the flight deck to get my Junior Jet Club log book signed. I was fascinated by aviation pioneers such as Amelia Earhart and Beryl Markham. But I didn't think flying was a career for me because there were so few female pilots at that time."
Today, Lucy is the embodiment of the inspirational role model she craved as a girl. Stepping into the cockpit for the first time when she joined the University Air Squadron, she gained her wings – and the respect of her peers – at a little airfield outside the city. "I was the first girl to join the Air Squadron – and proved that women could fly."
After taking a gruelling first job flying post around the world to earn her flight miles, Lucy's career took off when she joined Virgin over 20 years ago. Now she flies the skies in the iconic 747 airliner.
"Attitudes in aviation are changing. I've just completed a flight with two female First Officers and a female engineer. We all progress on merit – the most important thing is to be competent, capable and confident in the job. Our training is second to none. We're rigorously tested in a simulator every six months, yet people skills are also essential. I manage a team of up to 18, who then manage up to 500 passengers. Knowing how to deal with situations unrelated to aviation – like a medical emergency – is often what makes the difference.
We all progress on merit – the most important thing is to be competent, capable and confident in the job.
"Flying a 747 is an incredible way to see the world. My very first trip was to San Francisco, which is striking to approach from the air. One of my career highlights was flying Virgin's inaugural flight to Delhi with Sir Richard Branson. Our welcome party placed a garland and bindi on the aircraft when we arrived, before fireworks and dancing into the night at a palace!
"There's no such thing as a normal week. It can be a juggling act to maintain a family life, but we get a lot of time off in between trips, so I've been able to make the important events in my children's lives."
Now at the pinnacle of her career, Lucy is focusing on inspiring the next generation of pilots.
"Last year, I presented an award at We Day, an incredible movement that empowers young people to change the world. As soon as I said I was Captain of a 747, the arena erupted in spontaneous applause. To show 12,000 kids, especially the girls, that an airline pilot is something they can aspire to was just amazing. Not enough women go into training and it's a real loss to the industry.
"When you safely land a flight there's a real sense of accomplishment – I wouldn't change my job for the world."