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Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Honour for high-flying woman
Nicky Smith at the controls
Nicky Smith will command a Wessex squadron
A helicopter pilot has become the first woman to be made a commander of a squadron in the Royal Air Force.

Nicky Smith, from Staffordshire, said she is delighted but emphasised she has always been treated exactly the same as her male colleagues.

The 33-year-old squadron leader from Lichfield will take charge of a squadron of Wessex helicopters in Cyprus.

She said the promotion was a dream come true.

'Fantastic opportunity'

"I'm delighted to be in charge of a squadron," Ms Smith said.

"Most squadrons are commanded by wing commanders, which is a rank higher than mine.

"So it's a fantastic opportunity to be able to do it at my age and rank.

"It's a particular privilege to be given command of a squadron with such a long and distinguished history."

The squadron has been serving in Cyprus since 1972, remaining on standby to provide assistance to the international force on the island and in the Near East.

Equal treatment

Ms Smith, who joined the RAF in 1986 while she was studying engineering at Cambridge University, said she had realised a dream.

"Ever since I can remember I've always wanted to be a helicopter pilot," she said.

"I'm one of those very lucky people to have actually achieved my childhood dream.

"Being a woman has not made any difference. I've always been treated the same as the men."

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