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A Desire to Attain New Skills Pushed this Flight Attendant to Become a Pilot

PHNOM PENH: A curiosity and desire to gain new skills drew this Cambodian flight attendant to study piloting in several different countries, so that she could finally pursue a career as an airline pilot in Cambodia.

Hong Chenda, 33, is from Phnom Penh and has been working as a pilot for Lanmei Airlines for the past three years. Originally a flight attendant, she described developing an interest in piloting after seeing pilots do their work up-close. After striving for her goals and overcoming many challenges, Chenda was able to achieve her dream of becoming a pilot.

Chenda studied at the Ground School in Vietnam for six months, went on to study in the Philippines for 13 months and then finally took a course in South Korea for one month and 20 days. She said that love and satisfaction for the work and a strong desire to try something new pushed her to overcome all difficulties and achieve the position she has today.

"Usually we are curious, because there is a lot to see ahead!" she said. "When I became a [flight attendant], I wondered why [the senior pilots] flew the way they flew, how they flew the aircraft, and [why they chose certain flight routes]. Also, [I wondered] how they spoke with air traffic control. At that time, I always wanted to know more.”

The 33-year-old recalled that as a child, she originally wanted to become an archaeologist because of her interest in Khmer history, but as she grew up, her mind changed and she fell in love with aviation. After training and working as a flight attendant for three years (2013 to 2016), she wanted to increase her skills even more and worked hard to become a pilot.

What pushed this Cambodian woman to pursue piloting more than anything else was a strong desire to gain new knowledge and try something new. Hong Chenda said her success can also be attributed to the encouragement she received from the people around her, which prompted her to continue working hard, register for the pilot exam and continue her studies.

“There is one uncle who is a pilot who told me that if I wanted to learn more, I should try to go to school because the company [we worked for] has a partnership with [a piloting school in] Vietnam! [He said] take the test, if you get in, you get in, and if you do not pass, then come back here," shared Chenda.

Speaking more on the pilot exam, Chenda explained that it is divided into two stages. The first stage is an English proficiency test and fitness test, and the second is a face-to-face interview.

On her career, Chenda said that she has been a pilot now for three years, and has flown around 1,000 hours in total. She said she has only about 500 hours left before she should be promoted to the position of senior pilot and captain, however, she clarified that this decision also depends on the principles and review practices of each company.

Another female pilot, 27-year-old Keo Tith Socheata, shared that the type of aircraft a pilot can fly depends on the size of the plane. At the moment, Socheata said that she can only fly one type of aircraft.

"I've graduated with a CPL (commercial pilot license)!" said Socheata. "It means that I [can fly an aircraft] carrying passengers, but it also depends on the size of the aircraft."

Socheata also offered some advice and said that to achieve the goal of becoming a pilot, one has to have patience, perseverance, and a clear focus on their goals.

Hong Chenda added that as a first-generation student, she has tried to help spread the word about piloting through interviews with the media, and also regularly provides tips to younger generations who are interested in pursuing this career.

However, one thing that she wanted to emphasize and make people aware of is the increase in responsibilities after becoming a pilot. She said that her responsibility level is currently far higher than when she was in school and only flying small planes. She added that the main difficulties she has encountered during flights are weather problems and needing to conduct technical aircraft inspections, as such inspections require an immediate decision and resolution if any issues are detected.

Most of all, Hong Chenda hopes that her story can inspire many more to pursue their dreams. 

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