First Guyanese female commercial helicopter pilot, advocates for women’s inclusion in Aviation

Written by on August 9, 2023


In the cockpit of this Enstrom F-28 A during a showcase at Battersea in the United Kingdom, is Barbara Adams, the first black woman to obtain a commercial pilot’s licence for helicopters and gyroplanes in that country.


Barbara Adams, the first Guyanese female commercial helicopter pilot, is emphasizing the need for increased efforts to encourage women to pursue careers in aviation.

Speaking on the Women EmPOWERment programme on EdYOU FM last evening, Adams suggested that aviation education should be introduced at an early stage in secondary schools so that more students can be aware that it is a career option.

She further expressed her belief that by introducing aviation education at an early age, more girls in particular would be exposed to the possibilities within the industry and inspired to pursue careers as pilots or in related fields.

Barbara Adams, Guyana’s first and only female commercial pilot for helicopters and gyroplanes.

Adams stressed that it is crucial to break down gender barriers and stereotypes surrounding aviation. She emphasized that women are equally capable of excelling in this field and should be encouraged to explore opportunities within it.

She also agreed with Martina Johnson, one of the programme’s hosts, who suggested that the government should offer scholarships specifically targeting women who aspire to obtain commercial helicopter pilot licenses.

By offering such scholarships, Adams believes that financial barriers can be reduced, making it more accessible for aspiring female pilots to enter the profession.

Notably, since Adams completed her commercial helicopter pilot license in 1977, no other Guyanese woman has achieved this milestone. Addressing this, she said, “I’m not very happy that no female has followed my path … it is a gratifying career.”

Adams appealed, “To the people listening, an H.M. (headmaster/headmistress), a dad, a mom, a family member, start talking to your daughters and tell them if I can do it, they can do it too.”

Adams, who got her license at the age of 19 after studying on a scholarship in the UK, shared her personal journey into aviation and highlighted the challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated field.

Barbara Adams was issued with this commercial pilots’ licence for helicopters and gyroplanes in May 1977. She remains the only Guyanese woman to achieve this and later fly in Guyana. She co-piloted flights transporting the then President Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham, and she also carried out medical evacuations across Guyana. (Photos courtesy Barbara Adams)

She said that she had to deal with gender biases and the fact that she was young and inexperienced.  Also, there were approximately 14 pilots (6 captains) and only four helicopters at the Guyana Defense Force air corps unit, and those were inoperative or frequently down for maintenance for long periods. She stated that she was not very happy with how she dealt with the challenges.  However, in hindsight, she said she should have been more persistent, assertive, goal-oriented and relentless in pursuit and outspoken to ensure her long-term success.

At the time when she entered the aviation sector in Guyana, the Guyana Defense Force was her only option for employment in that field in the country. Today, there are at least two other helicopter companies operating commercially.

Adams acknowledged that becoming a commercial helicopter pilot requires determination, hard work, and perseverance. She hopes that her achievements will serve as an inspiration for other Guyanese women who may have aspirations in aviation but feel discouraged due to societal norms or lack of representation.

The interview with Adams sheds light on the underrepresentation of women in aviation and highlights the importance of promoting gender equality within the industry. Encouraging girls from an early age to consider careers in aviation can help bridge the gender gap and create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.



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