Singapore

Student on course to fulfil dream of being a pilot

17-year-old among youngest here to attain recreational pilot certificate

In 2016, a newspaper article about Singapore's first local Malay woman to become a commercial pilot made Haazeqah Nur Atikah Abdullah sit up.

The story sparked the Secondary 2 student's interest in flying.

After she and her mother, a civil servant, did some research, the former Junyuan Secondary School student decided to take up aerospace technology at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) last year.

She also joined private aviation school Aeroviation last year, setting her on a course towards her dream of becoming a commercial pilot.

The 17-year-old started lessons in August last year, and last month spent two weeks in Australia to attain a Recreational Pilot Certificate, which allows her to fly light-sport aircraft that are smaller and have a maximum weight of 600kg.

The achievement is a starting point. The 25 hours of flying she chalked up to earn the certificate can be counted towards getting a commercial pilot licence.

According to Aeroviation, Haazeqah is among the youngest in Singapore - and likely to be the first female here - to obtain this certificate, which was introduced in recent years as a faster and cheaper route than a private pilot's licence.

Most of the school's 23 students who attained the certificate last year are under 18 years of age or in their 20s.

The course includes theory components as well as simulator training, and the certification costs $10,000.

"My mother has been supporting me from the start, and she's proud of me and wants me to learn even more," said Haazeqah, an only child. "I want to learn all there is about flying and the aviation industry."

For a few months last year, she spent three to four hours almost every weekday attending night classes at Aeroviation in Ubi, juggling her ITE schoolwork at the same time.

INTERNSHIP

She is now on an internship with aircraft engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Canada, and plans to train further to obtain a commercial pilot licence.

She wants to continue her studies at Nanyang Polytechnic in an aeronautical and aerospace engineering diploma course, and obtain a university degree.

Being a pilot takes mental and physical strength, she said.

During her first few flights in Adelaide, she had to handle turbulence and a phenomenon called thermals, where air rises because of heat.

"The weather wasn't very good during training, and it felt like my aircraft was being blown away, so I had to work to control it," she said.

"It required a lot of focus, and my Australian instructor told me that one hour of flying can feel like four hours of driving because of how draining it is."

But she added: "I like flying a lot. I like the feeling of the adrenaline rush in my body."

Haazeqah's dream is to be a pilot with Singapore Airlines. "If given that opportunity, I would like to do that, to represent my country."

Education