Taking flight: Lauren Smith (2003)

There is no doubt the pandemic impacted each and every person in our Girls Grammar community and beyond. One of these impacts was the inability to travel—and after nearly three years, flights are back, and holidays can once again be enjoyed.

Captain Lauren Smith (2003) has been a pilot since she was 19 years old, following in her father’s footsteps, and while she hasn’t spent much time flying in the past three years, life as a pilot is gradually returning to normal.

After training for 18 months to become a pilot when she left Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Lauren moved to the top end of Australia for four years to gain experience in a remote environment.

‘At the time, that was a very traditional career path, because there are a lot of remote communities in that area. The roads are not good, especially in the wet season, and the towns are far and wide—basically the mode of travel is charter aircraft flying,’ she said.

During this stint, Lauren flew everyone from doctors, teachers, nurses, council staff, through to an engineer because someone’s generator had broken down 500 kms outside of Darwin. It’s where she gained hours of experience which prepared her for commercial flying with Jetstar, where she has worked since 2010.

And while Lauren has achieved her goal of becoming Captain, she said she wished she had appreciated the journey to get there.

‘For four years doing remote flying, I wish I had appreciated it a lot more at the time,’ she said.

‘I wish I had taken more photos and enjoyed the journey, because at the time I was so determined to keep moving upwards—which was the right thing to do—but that time was an experience I’ll never forget, that’s for sure.’

After her time in Northern Australia wrapped up in early 2010, Lauren started working at Jetstar, and has travelled everywhere from Hawaii to Wuhan.

As a Captain, Lauren said her priority is ‘setting the tone for the day’ and showing leadership to her team.

‘As a skipper, you’re the one bringing the glue together and leading the group. It makes it a good day at work if everyone’s happy to be there, that’s the best day you can have really,’ she said.

She is a champion for women in aviation and has worked on big picture campaigns and internal communications to encourage more young women to join the field.

‘We do have a lot more women coming into the ranks, which is wonderful,’ she said.

‘We have a lot of ‘unseen’ women in aviation. There’s a lot of women in air traffic control in both civilian and military roles, and there’s more women coming through in flying now. It would be good to see more, but we’re working on that’.

Lauren’s advice to both Grammar Women and current students who have worked through a difficult few years is to ‘look at life as a long game’.

‘Right now, short-term, things are really challenging, and they have been for a few years and we all have a challenging story. It’s not been easy for anyone,’ she said.

‘But in the long-term, things will be fine. By the time BGGS students finish their studies and training in their respective fields, the world will provide so many opportunities for them.’