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Penny Hanrahan


I had known from the age of 10 I wanted to be an airline pilot. In hindsight my focus and unfailing belief that I would get there one day is what smoothed the path of highs and lows, achievements and failures I encountered along the way.

In 1985 I commenced a Bachelor of Commerce at UWA, at the same time I was learning to fly. I definitely spent more time in the cockpit than the lecture hall and it was surprising that I only failed half my subjects in Commerce. However, I was also studying at Midland Technical College, where they offered aviation theory several nights a week.

I ventured up north to pursue my dream in 1987. After I spent a year in Kununurra, I moved to the Northern Territory and then to Cairns. The elusive airline interview finally came my way at the end of 1990 when I was successfully offered a position as a First Officer with Ansett Airlines on my 23rd birthday. At 27, I became the youngest female and one of the youngest pilots in the world to be able to fly the 747 in command.

I was flying until Ansett collapsed which was in 2001. At that time I still liked flying but I was looking for something a bit different. I did some contract flying work then I changed direction. I got into air traffic control training and I completed that in 2005. I’ve been doing air traffic control since. I took a couple of years off to have a couple of kids.

The change of career at a later stage has been really good for me. It’s just a bit more challenging. I would never have changed if Ansett had not gone down the gurgler.

On MLC: I do remember hanging out of the windows of Sumner House in the mornings when we all arrived and we would congregate chatting before the bell used to go. There’d be the odd solo Christ Church boy walking through the school to his school and we would hang out the windows like ferals and wolf-whistle and give him a hard time. I think they secretly enjoyed it. They would smile as they walked past and we’d all be giving them a hard time.




28 October 2022