As Air Canada’s first female pilot retires after 37 years on the job, she says she is surprised how few have followed her pioneering career path.

“They have thousands of applications,” says Capt. Judy Cameron says of her airline, “not that many are from women.”

Cameron made front-page news in 1978 when she started her job with the national airline. At the time, most women did not work outside the home and aviation was especially male-dominated.

Cameron says the hardest part was getting hired. She trained for two years at an aviation college and worked as a co-pilot on DC-3s in northern Canada for three years before Air Canada accepted her into training.

Air Canada was a North American leader in hiring women to be pilots, Cameron says, but the airline still has only about 160 female pilots among approximately 3,100. That’s 5.1 per cent – a figure close to the North American average.

The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents pilots in Canada and the U.S., recently reported that 5.4 per cent of members are women. British Airways said in 2013 that 200 of its 3,500 pilots are women – about 5.7 per cent.

The figure is somewhat higher in India, where the government told the Times of India last year that 600 of the country’s 5,050 pilots – 11.6 per cent – are women.

After Cameron landed her final Air Canada flight in Toronto on Sunday, she called her retirement “bittersweet,” but she’s not done flying yet.

“I’ve always wanted to do aerobatic flying,” she told CTV News Channel on Tuesday, adding that she plans to buy a share in a small plane. “It’s something I tried to avoid most of my career,” she adds, “because of the passengers.”