First Lao Woman Receives Commercial Pilot’s Diploma

The achievement of the graduation of Lao female pilot, Ms Soudaphone Visounnarath, aged 23, from the Ecole Nationale de l’Aviation Civile (ENAC) in Toulouse, France on April 16 makes her the first national female commercial pilot in the country.

The graduation is part of Lao Airlines State Enterprise stepping up its international standards and advancing human resource development particularly for pilots who need to be highly competent and experienced to comply with the demands of the airline.

Ms Soudaphone is from the third pairing of student pilots out of the six individuals who were chosen in a pre-selection from more than 150 candidates, and who passed the stringent medical examination at the end of 2012 in Bangkok, Thailand. Subsequently, they were again tested and passed the final selection conducted by a specialist from the French National School of Civil Aviation in mid-2013. Finally, they were sent to study the Ab-Initial Pilot Training course at ENAC in Toulouse, France.

She and her fellow paired student began their course at the end of September 2013 studying the Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) Ground Course and training in Visual Flight Rating (VFR). They were then able to make their first solo flight in a single engine aircraft on April 15, 2014. Achieving the first solo flight is a stepping stone in aircraft control capability without the guidance of instructors; at that time, though, they were not yet qualified pilots.

During the following year the student pilots continued their education on a flight simulator for Instrument Flight Rating (IFR) for single and multi-engines under different conditions such as bad weather and night flights, being tested for communication ability, 4th level English aviation and many other skills until ultimately they were able to obtain a Commercial Pilot’s Licence on April 16, 2015 from the institution.

Amongst the six individuals there was one who obviously stood out from the others, female student Ms Soudaphone Visounnarath. She passed the selection process, endured long hours of study, training night and day alongside her paired male colleague until she successfully reached her goal in one of the most internationally accredited institutions in the world, becoming the first female pilot in the history of the Lao PDR.

The success of Ms Soudaphonehas raised the role of Lao women in society as being equal to men. She has become a role model for the younger generation, inspiring them to become a strong backbone for the nation and create prosperity for Laos.

Out of the six student pilots who passed the TB20 and Beachcraft B58 qualifications requiring a total of 232 hours of flying, four obtained the ATR type rating and two (including Ms Soudaphone) went on to obtain an Airbus A320 type rating in Toulouse, in order to become pilots for Lao Airlines in two months time, accumulating valuable experience in order to become skillful and responsible pilots under the administration of the Lao Civil Aviation Department’s operation permits.

This landmark event will shine a new light on the importance of this occupation and life as a pilot in our country. This will boost the expectations of receiving more applications from interested individuals, especially female candidates, to help alleviate Lao Airlines from the heavy expense of hiring foreign pilots there by developing the prosperity of the state airline.

Another female Lao pilot recently went solo for the first time, Ms Thinanong Leusasinh from Lao Skyways, who was one of six trainees receiving flight instruction here in Laos. The first solo flight is a milestone in the two-year pilot training course, when trainees take the controls of a four-seat, single engine Cessna 172 with no instructor aboard.

Source: Vientiane Times

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