The World’s Youngest Airline Captain Is A 26 Year Old Woman

Filed Under: Media, Other Airlines

Back in July I wrote about how EasyJet hired a 19 year old pilot, who must be one of the youngest airline pilots in the world. As a lifelong aviation geek I think it’s so awesome what he has accomplished at such a young age. Since he passed all his tests just like everyone else, there’s no reason his age should prevent him from accomplishing his dream.


Well, the airline is once again making the news this week for the age of one of their pilots. In this case it’s because EasyJet has just promoted a 26 year old to captain, making her the youngest airline captain on record.

Per the Press Association:

Kate McWilliams, originally from Carlisle, told the Press Association she gets quizzed about her age by cabin crew and passengers almost every day and most are “pleasantly surprised and impressed” when she tells them her age.

She began flying aged 13 in the air cadets before embarking on a training programme at CTC Aviation in Southampton on her 19th birthday.

In May 2011 she joined easyJet as a first officer and recently took up the rank of captain after passing the airline’s command course.

It’s also nice to see that the reaction she’s getting has been mostly positive, since she potentially faces both agism and sexism, given the career she chose:

“I do now get asked how old I am on an almost daily basis which didn’t used to happen when I was a first officer.

“Usually that question comes from the cabin crew but sometimes passengers ask too.

“When I tell them I’m 26, most people are pleasantly surprised and impressed with my achievement at such a young age.”


Congrats to Kate on her achievements! It’s especially awesome that the youngest airline captain is a female, given how few female pilots there still are. She’s an inspiration to others.

Now they need to have her operate a flight with the 19 year old first officer. At a combined age of 45, I suspect they’d be the youngest airline cockpit crew ever!

  1. Kate McWilliams and Luke Elsworth have already flown from London and Malta together. Hope they find some sort of future together as partners!

  2. Before anyone grumbles again…..please face facts. Crews are going to get younger and younger no matter what you say. Airlines need pilots and cheaper pilots.

    That’s the bottom line…..Maybe there will be more incidents than normal, maybe there won’t but you can’t grumble about it.

  3. I don’t know why RyanAir doesnt publicize it but they have a 22 year old captain named Diego Steinbach. He just got promoted about three months ago. Wouldn’t that make him the youngest?

  4. Perhaps he mentioned the fact it’s not only the youngest captain ever, the fact she as a female achieved it in an industry that is 95% male is incredibly impressive.

    Awesome for her, I hope more young men and women are able to achieve such extrodinary goals.

  5. Not trying at all to take away from anything but I have been reading on some other blogs that there are airline captains that are younger. Would be curious if anyone knew for sure. I am just thinking someone at a regional carrier could be a Captain at a younger age. Awesome story either way.

  6. I’m not sure if 26 is the youngest in the world…when I was training it China it wasn’t uncommon to hear 26 year old ERJ captains, maybe even 25 year old if my memory serves me right. It was very common seeing 27-28 year old captains in the crew lounge

  7. So can I ask, Lucky or anyone else – if you needed major heart surgery, would you be as confident in having the newly qualified surgeon doing it over the 50 year old who’s done 1000’s?

    I’d get slightly nervous hearing the combined age of my flight crew was 45 years old. That’s why I like almost being albe to hear the captains moustache. Experience is important!

  8. @Aaron Tan –

    I mean what your are suggesting can be the same with most jobs. Experience is important, but how are people ever going to be replaced if you don’t give up and coming or younger people experience.

    You could say a 65 year old captain could have a heart attack and put him out during a flight, when there is less chance of that happening to a 29 year old captain.

    Sometimes old people get set in their ways and that causes issues or they don’t want to learn new things.

    I mean you can’t always have it both ways right ?

  9. I would have no issue with a pilot being in their early twenties, maybe 21 and up. As long as they are skilled and have completed the requirements, more power to them.

    19 years old? Now that gives me pause. In addition to experience, there is a thing called maturity that I think is very important and only comes with the passage of time. You may not care if your barista is only a teenager but a pilot? Keep in mind that in addition to being skilled at flying a plane we are talking about being a leader, in command of the plane and crew and being responsible for the lives of all the passengers.

    Whats the rush?

  10. @Abhinav Agarwal In case you didn’t know and it sounds like you don’t, women have to put up with a lot more misogynistic bs to get to equal footing in this world. Thats why some are “required” to dress a certain way, weight has to be within a range, how some countries have jobs for men but the women are not allowed to do the same work etc.

    @Aaron Tan thats a fair question and I certainly thought about it. But she is not necessarily a captain flying a difficult route under difficult flying conditions into airports that would make your teeth gnash together. She would be perfectly fine as a primary care doctor but maybe not neuro surgeon because of lack of experience. Pilots unlike doctors can make minor mistakes while flying and most likely won’t kill everyone on board. While a surgeon making a small mistake during surgery could very well be disaster. So I wouldn’t put pilots on equal level of concern as a surgeon. Obviously, amount of experience is important but I wouldn’t discredit someone because of age.

    I was in the emergency room and had an unknown issue at the time. The older more experienced doctor said I was fine and to go home and monitor my condition. The much younger doctor was more concern because of my past history and wanted me monitored in the hospital and was mostly speaking from instincts. He was right, the older doctor was wrong and I could have died that night.

  11. So I could have a 26 year old captain or I could have a captain with 26 years flight experience. Hmm . I’ll take the flight experience thank you. Also, I’m not really cool with a 19 y/o flying a commercial passenger jet. Can they fly a plane? Sure. When picking a captain though your not picking who can take off and land and routine stuff. The first officers can all do that. With a captain you want a person there who can handle it when something that is not routine happens. Someone with a lot of experience who in that moment will make decisions that will impact the lives of everyone on that airplane. Sorry. Just don’t see how people this young could possibly have enough experience to make those types of calls. Not saying they won’t get there, but I just don’t see it.

  12. @DougG I agree that they should at least be 21 before working at the airline as a pilot. Maybe even a bit older. There is no question they can learn the how-to and be effective at 19, but in terms of leading people and that type of responsibility its just a bit much. Seriously what is the rush. I have a feeling if we look at their salaries they will be getting paid way less than their more experienced colleagues at other airlines who are older.

  13. Folks that are younger than these, male and female, have been flying aircraft, driving ships, launching missiles, diving submarines, operating every manner of complicated machinery for many decades. So the feats reported above are really not that a big of a deal. But this is a blog for airline travel, so I’ll give applause. Clap clap clap….

  14. Congratulations Kate McWilliams… She may be youngest captain in the world now but

    In January 1990 Nivedita Bhasin became the world’s youngest commander at the age of 26 on the Boeing aircraft. Search wiki for Nivedita Bhasin

    I believe there are other even younger women captains, may not be on a jet.

    Stats and PR it is still a great achievement for a male dominated profession and women should be encouraged to become pilots.

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