Singapore

From accountant to female pilot

Singapore Airlines (SIA) welcomed the first two women pilots in August last year.

But SIA's regional arm, SilkAir, has been hiring women pilots since 2001.

Captain Debbie Aw first applied to be a cadet pilot in 1998, and faced multiple rejections before being recruited in 2003.

Now, she is among nine women pilots with SilkAir.

SilkAir has a total of 225 pilots.

"I believe that we have to be twice as good to be seen as half as good," says the 40-year-old, who worked as an accountant previously.

"But in recent years, I can feel that the industry is shifting its attitude towards female pilots. We are getting more recognition for our good work and efforts."

Captain Aw developed her love for flying when she was in junior college and after she joined the Youth Flying Club.

She then started as a cadet pilot in SilkAir in 2003, and became a Captain in 2012.

As Captain of a Boeing 737, she has to maintain safety and efficiency of the flight, and to keep up the team spirit of the flight crew.

Women make up just 1 per cent of the aviation industry, while the worldwide estimate stands at 5 per cent.

"Our licence is suspended during pregnancy and we have to undergo retraining after delivery before we can resume flying duties," says Capt Aw.

The irregular working hours mean she is sometimes unable to spend as much time as she wants with her two children.

SUPPORT

But her husband, who is a captain with SIA, and her family, have always been supportive of her career.

"My parents are of great help to me and take care of the children," she said.

Capt Aw said when more women learn about what the job entails, they may be encouraged to take to the skies too.

Are women pilots held back career wise?

No, said Capt Aw.

"It comes down to individual attitude and aptitude. There was a quote from a female pilot that struck me: 'When you jump into the cockpit, the plane doesn't care if you are a man or a woman'."

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