Transportation - Vehicles

19-Year-Old Poised To Become Laos’ First Female Pilot

Many women are taking on non-traditional roles as new career opportunities open up for them, showing they are equal to men in terms of ability.

One example is a young woman named Ms Phinanong Leusasinh, aged just 19, of Nongping village in Chanthabouly district, Vientiane, who recently made her first solo flight.

The solo flight, which is made without an instructor on board, is a milestone in the pilot training course. Last week Ms Phinanong was one of six trainees who took the controls of a four-seat, single engine Cessna 172 high above Wattay International Airport.

In a recent media interview, Ms Phinanong said her instructor gave the confidence to undertake the solo flight.

This ambitious girl is now on track to become Laos’ first female pilot when she completes her two-year course training programme next year. On completion of the programme, Ms Phinanong and the other trainees will be employed by Lao Skyway, the airline that is supporting the training.

During training, the aspiring pilots take courses in what is known as ‘ground school’. The courses cover all the subjects required by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and Lao Civil Aviation Safety Regulations.

The general knowledge course covers airframes, engine and systems, theory of flight, flight instruments, flight operations, human factors, and pilot decision-making.

Flight training includes dual, solo, cross-country, instrument and simulator training in accordance with ICAO and Lao Civil Aviation Safety Regulations requirements.

It has not been an easy passage for Ms Phinanong and she has encountered many challenges during the training course. “But,” she said, “I don’t give up because I receive strength and encouragement from my family and friends.”

“I’m very happy to know that I’m one of the top six students at the flying school. Originally there were 120 applicants from which they selected the best 20. So it’s very satisfying for me to be one of the top six.”

Although she’s made great progress during the course, Ms Phinanong said one of the aspects she found really difficult was understanding the technical language concerning engines.

But she presses on and tells herself that women can do the same things as men. Ms Phinanong said she longed to be a pilot when she was a child and she likes an adventure, so she decided to apply for the course.

She realises that she is poised to make history by becoming the country’s first female pilot.

Candidates enrolling in the pre-course had to meet numerous prerequisites such as possession of a high school certificate or higher, medical clearance to prove good physical health, good English skills, and a minimum height requirement (1.6 metres for women and 1.65 metres for men).

Furthermore, they had to pass a screening test which assessed their maths ability, spatial orientation, memory, technical comprehension, concentration and a specific English test as well as an interview.

Ms Phinanong expressed her sincere thanks to her family and friends, especially to the Swiss-based Partners in Aviation and Communication Technologies, the Department of Civil Aviation, the Civil Aviation Training Centre, and Lao Skyway, who have all encouraged her to achieve her goal.

Ms Phinanong was formerly a pupil at Vientiane Secondary School, from which she graduated in 2013. She was studying at the Lao-American College before she began her pilot training. She comes from a family of four, and has a younger brother.

Source: Vientiane Times, Photo: Tessa Bunney