KUALA LUMPUR: Three local women have broken traditional gender stereotypes by pursuing their dreams to become the first batch of female pilots with Malaysia Airlines.
Pearl Wendy Mak, Wang Wen Chien and Nur Waie Hidayah Mohamad Rasidin have broken the norm, as previously most women in the aviation industry would opt to work as flight attendants or ground staff.
According to the International Society of Women Pilots’ estimation in 2017 out of 130,000 pilots in the world, only 3,000 (three per cent) were female pilots.
Captain Mak, 50, who has been flying for 25 years, acknowledged that flying an aircraft is not an easy job for women but this is the new era where women are making inroads into sectors that were previously men’s exclusive domain.
She has worked with seven foreign airlines over the years before deciding to return home.
Mak initially wanted to be an aircraft engineer, then toyed with the idea of becoming a flight engineer. However, when told that the flight engineer’s role was becoming obsolete, she ended up taking flying.
“So long as you do your part, work as a team, and forget that you will be treated differently, you will not be seen as a man or woman but just a pilot,” Mak told Bernama.
Her advice to ladies who want to take up the challenge in the aviation industry is that they should understand and be in love with aviation itself, besides being disciplined and motivated.
“Constantly read your books, study hard and perfect your skills. At the end of it, you may eventually become a commander or be upgraded to a bigger aircraft,” said Mak whose twin sister is also into flying.
Meanwhile, Second Officer Wang’s dream of becoming a pilot began when her father took her for a ‘Fly for Fun’ one-day pilot course in Subang when she was 15.
“I was fascinated when the aircraft took off with the pilot seated next to me, he actually taught me to do some manoeuvres in the sky and I found it really cool,” said Wang who initially wanted to venture into IT.
Wang earned her wings in Sydney, Australia and completed her conversion course at the Malaysian Flying Academy in 2016 before joining Malaysia Airlines as a cadet pilot in August 2017.
Her advice to young women who want to take to the skies, is just go for it.
“Do what you like, it may not be easy at the beginning but never give up half way through because you never know what the end result will be,” said Wang whose wish now is to become a captain in eight years time.
Wang says she does not find it a problem to fit in with her predominately male colleagues in the aviation sector and does not see it as a glamorous job but a profession and a vocation.
“As a pilot one has to work different hours and days as rostered and we got to do quick transits which is about 45 minutes, meaning we have to start the return journey quickly,” she said.
Nur Waie Hidayah, 21, a cadet pilot with Malaysia Airlines since December 2017, was inspired by her father who is also a pilot.
“I grew up in Abu Dhabi, where my father is based. After graduating from high school in 2013, I returned to Malaysia and went to a flying school in Melaka.
“My 18 months training there was tough and it took a lot of support from my loved ones and a lot of studying, will power and strict discipline to complete the course.
Mak, Wang and Nur Waie Hidayah were honoured at the MAS Crew Graduation ceremony on Aug 11 where 111 cabin crew and pilots graduated.
During his speech at the graduation ceremony, Malaysia Airlines Group CEO Capt Izham Ismail said: “I’m very proud that for the first time Malaysia Airlines has three amazing, strong and resilient women graduating as pilots today. It is my hope that the future of Malaysia Airlines includes many more female captains flying our aircraft and making the country proud”.
Malaysia Airlines recently started its female pilot programme which is now open for enrolment. To date,it has 2,286 cabin crew and 927 pilots operating its fleet of B737-800, A330-300, A330-200, A350-900 and the A380-800.
Capt Izham told Bernama that Malaysia Airlines was currently facing a shortage of pilots especially for its narrow-body B737-800 fleet which had led to operational constraints and would have an impact on its growth.
“In order to normalise the airline’s operations by next year, we need an additional 150 pilots. Filling up the vacancies in the cockpit presents another challenge as the airline sets the bar for a qualifying captain at 4,500 flying hours – 1,000 more than the industry’s average,” he said. -- Bernama