SHE was a pioneer in aviation overcoming prejudice as the first ever female air traffic controller.

But Yvonnes Sintes saw how much things have moved on since her time on a visit to a Hampshire air traffic control centre.

The 84-year-old dropped in to the NATS control centre in Swanwick to meet staff and share her experiences, including the prejudice she faced being a woman.

Yvnne was a controller at Gatwick Airport between 1960 and 1964, but many of the men she worked alongside found the idea of a woman controller impossible.

Her instructor tried to persuade her to leave the training programme and a French pilot once even refused to land at Gatwick and preferred to divert to another airport rather than take instructions from Yvonne.

Despite this, she was honoured as the best air traffic controller in Europe in 1965 and went on to become the country's first female airline captain.

Air traffic has increased massively since Yvonne was a controller, with NATS managing 2.2 million flights last year.

But today's controllers have the advantage of support from by a wide range of advanced technological tools.

Today NATS can predict a flight's position up to 18 minutes into the future.

Yvonne, who lives in Chichester, said: “I am still passionate about aviation so it's been fantastic to visit NATS today, to meet the current controllers and see how far things have come in 50 years.

“During the 1960s Britain had a reputation for having the best air traffic controllers in the world, so it is good to see that at least hasn't changed.”

Juliet Kennedy, NATS' Director of Operations at Swanwick Centre, said: “It has been an honour to have Yvonne with us today. Her determination to overcome the barriers of a male dominated industry helped pave the way for future generations to build successful careers in aviation.

“Today we employ hundreds of women controllers thanks to Yvonne and pioneers like her.”