As an optimist Jessica James likes to emphasize the positive in any situation.
So as one of the small number of women working as a commercial pilot, when she talks about the industry, she emphasizes how much she loves her job as a co-star and pilot on the reality television series Lost Car Rescue on History channel, all before 30 years of age.
She also emphasizes how gratifying it is to work in her chosen profession, and focuses on the strong female mentors who helped her get to where she is today.
“Every day is different,” James says of flying for a reality television series, when trying to describe a day in her job with Lost Car Rescue, where along with flying the grid patterns searching for cars to salvage across remote parts of British Columbia, she also helps with some of the research, because she also happens to love history.
“I crave adventure … I’m fortunate, I get that with this job.”
She also helps with anything the crew needs, a service many pilots might not be eager to perform, but she sees as helping out her friends.
One of the biggest challenges for many women in aviation over the longer term is the length of time away from home and family, something she says is not an issue for her now but she sees could be a problem for women when they start a family.
“I feel so fortunate that I get to hang out with my friends all summer,” she said, noting it is like being at a summer camp during filming season with her friends in some ways.
Having grown up in the small community of Nimpo Lake, she also appreciates the chance the show gives her to go to small communities she might otherwise not get to see and meet all kinds of people.
“It gets me so excited, I thoroughly enjoy it,” says James.
She hopes examples like herself help pave the way for other young women to consider aviation as a viable option.
But she also admits there have been a lot of people along the way who said she couldn’t do what she does, because she’s a woman.
She recounts a story of her close female friend, also a commercial pilot, whose five-year-old daughter was excited to tell her classmates about her mom’s job as a pilot. But when the young girl tried to share her mom’s job with her class, her classmates told her she was a “liar” and “Only daddies can be pilots.”
But again, James is optimistic about how women in the aviation industry are helping make inroads and helping to modernize an industry where she said it can be difficult to talk about your feelings, but being more open and honest about challenges pilots encounter can help support fellow pilots and provide learning opportunities.
“I think the biggest thing is knowing that it’s okay to talk about those struggles and those failures,” she said. “We’re all humans at the end of the day.”
She also expresses a lot of gratitude for the opportunity to provide a role model for young women and girls who might otherwise not realize a profession in aviation is even an option.
Another story James recounts is of meeting a young girl who told her she did not even know girls could be pilots. Not only was the child excited to then watch James in the reality television series she co-stars in Lost Car Rescue, but the youngster said she now wants to become a pilot like her.
James got where she is, a working professional commercial aviator on the reality television series Lost Car Rescue, thanks to many years of hard work in getting her pilot’s license, then attaining her dream job as a float plane pilot for Harbour Air, and then along with hundreds of other pilots, getting laid off during Covid when airlines scaled back as flights were cancelled and people stayed home.
But thanks to her connections and positive attitude, she was hired as the co-star and commercial pilot on Lost Car Rescue, working with a fellow pilot, friend and past roommate Matt Sager.
If she was able to go back in time to give some advice to her younger self, she says she would tell herself: “It will all work out and it will be even better than you’ve ever dreamed.”
How does she advise other young aspiring female aviators hoping to make their way into the male-dominated field?
“The industry is very small and to always show up and do the best you can do, some days is going to be very hard and you might question … but it’s worth it.”
Surrounding yourself with a good network of people is also key, says James.
She herself had very supportive parents growing up, and her dad was a pilot. Her mom helped connect James to women in the industry who could mentor her, one of whom she still relies on today when she needs advice.
But most of all, she knows her own determination and self-described “stubbornness” helped get her where she is, despite the naysayers she met along the way.
“Never give up,” advises James.
Jessica James will once again be costarring in Season 2 of Lost Car Rescue as the team takes to the skies of northern Canada looking for abandoned classic cars. Season 2 will be coming out soon in April, with Episode 1 premiering April 19. Season 1 is available to stream on STACKTV, available through Amazon Prime Channels, FuboTV, Rogers Ignite TV and Ignite SmartStream