From the age of three Paula Setchfield has wanted to fly. Now 29, she is a senior first officer with BA and flies 747s.
I work three days on and two off, making five trips a month so my suitcase is always open and half packed. I use a hard shell case on wheels with dog-lead-style handle that takes the weight off my arm.

I mostly fly to the United States, Africa, and India, but my layer system wardrobe does not vary much the year round: T-shirts, shirts, sweater, jacket, trousers, a non-crease dress for hotter places and swimwear for the hotel pool.

Since work involves sitting all day, I take sports kit. Exercising in the hotel gym combats tiredness. Shoes are rationed to three pairs: a smart pair, trainers for shopping, sightseeing and safaris, black sandals that go with everything or boots for the States. That's all I need for the average 26 hours between flights.

On board I wear my uniform, now a more feminine tailored version of the men's. Even with my pilot's stripes and although BA now has 60 female pilots, I still get asked for gin and tonics when I walk around the plane.

Part of my duties is to carry the flight documents and in my flight deck case I also put my passport, visas, flying licence, sunglasses, an unbreakable rubber torch, spare tights, nail file (which amuses the captain), sunscreen, lots of moisturiser, eye and handcream as I get dehydrated. I record flight memories on a simple point-and- shoot camera with telephoto lens. I have some dramatic shots taken over the Greenland ice cap.

Another item always with me is my personal organiser with lists of things to do, addresses, business cards and the work roster. I can wake up and know the date but not the day and where I should be.

I'm always on malaria pills and keep a kitchen calendar to check I've taken them. I pack insect repellent and cream, aspirins to help me sleep, eyeshade, earplugs and two large safety pins. The latter fix hotel curtains that never quite close as I try to sleep in the afternoons before flights. An alarm clock is vital though I do get a crew call.

I hate those hotel hosepipe style hairdryers that take so long to work so as I'm in the States so much, I have an American hairdryer that saves carrying adaptor and plugs. American hotels can't make tea so I take a heater element.

I take a novel for the hotel and local guide books in which I note shopping and sightseeing tips given to me by experienced crew members. I love shopping and once used part of my cargo allowance bringing home a special exercise bike from the States.

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