HONOLULU (KHON) — Hawaiian Airlines operated its first flight with mother and daughter pilots Wednesday.
The mother, Captain Kamelia Zarka, and her daughter, First Officer Maria Zarka, took flight over the Pacific. Both pilots flew into Honolulu from neighboring islands in a Boeing 717 aircraft.
According to Hawaiian Airlines, the daughter was hired as a Boeing 717 first officer earlier this year. Her mom, a Boeing 717 captain who earned her pilot wings in 1999, was the first Tongan woman to captain a commercial airline.
“It was a dream come true. I’ve been so lucky on my aviation career so far, but being able to fly right seat with my mom was an unbelievable lifetime experience,” Maria Zarka said. “Everybody always comes up to me and tells me how amazing my mom is to fly with, and today, I got to experience that firsthand.”
Kamelia Zarka, who began as a flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines, said flying with Maria has been a dream ever since her daughter became interested in aviation as a child.
The mother and daughter pilot duo is encouraging other young girls to follow their dreams.
According to the Pilot Institute, the number of female pilots has grown each year since 2017. Yet there were still only 64,979 women pilots as of 2021, accounting for 9.02% of the total.
“While other industries, such as the medical field or law enforcement, have enjoyed a marked improvement in female representation, aviation is still struggling,” the Pilot Institute said. “It’s going to take the collaborative effort of communities, corporations, training facilities and individuals to help more women succeed in aviation.”
Currently, the airline industry as a whole is struggling with an overall pilot shortage that has resulted in worldwide cancellations and fewer flights.