Phinanong Leusasinh discusses her lifelong dream of flying, the difficulties she has faced in a male-dominated industry and what it takes to become a certified pilot
How did you first become interested in being a pilot?
It was always a dream – at first I just wanted to work at the airport, as a flight attendant or something like that. But the instructors at Partners in Aviation and Communication Technologies [an organisation that provides expertise in aviation in less-developed countries] tried to explain to me that you can be a pilot if you want; you just have to learn.
What personal qualities does somebody need to be a pilot?
I think people who want to become a pilot… have to be concentrated; you need to focus when you are in the cockpit. You need to have a sense of responsibility for people in the plane. Becoming a pilot never ends, either. You have to take the exam and keep learning afterwards. You have to be patient, and you have to study a lot.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
When flying, I like the landing part. The first time that I learned, I was not good at it; my instructor had to help me a lot. But now, I feel like, OK, I can do it.
Did people ever say you can’t do this because you’re a woman?
Yeah. The first people were my parents; they said to me that I couldn’t do it. But I just spoke with them every night. And the others were my friends. Because I am a woman, and I am not a big woman – I am thin and small – they said they wouldn’t believe that I could fly. I explained to them that being a pilot is not only a man’s job. If you like it and you have experience, that’s all [that matters].
What do you want people to learn from your story?
If people want to be a pilot like me, I want them to be patient. While I was studying, I wasn’t successful every time. There are things that we can use as a lesson for tomorrow. Not only for pilots, but for everyone. If you fail today, maybe this is a good lesson for you to start tomorrow and begin again