High-flying pioneer

Christina Ho
Curious, fearless and focused – recently qualified Second Officer Christina Ho believes in giving things a try. The fine arts graduate explains how she found herself on the flight deck of an aircraft as a Cathay Pacific pilot after starting as cabin crew – and how she hopes to inspire others to follow her lead.

What first attracted you to the job of cabin crew?

After graduating with a fine arts degree I did various nine to five jobs in art and design. But I am a person who wants to try new things. I like travelling, I knew that Cathay is a Hong Kong company with a good reputation, and I knew about the job of cabin crew from recruitment posters. I thought it was a very good opportunity. I like to connect with people, I like to work with people – and I enjoyed dealing with passengers in the cabin. This job also gave me the chance to handle pressured situations. When I was a junior staff member, a passenger collapsed in the aisle – it happened right in front of me. I thought "I have been trained for this" so I followed the procedure and took care of the situation with other crew members. I realised that I am calm under pressure, I don't panic.

What drew you to change path and train as a pilot?

Working as cabin crew gave me an insight into aviation. I don't have family members working in the industry, so it was the job of cabin crew that opened my mind to the possibility of becoming a pilot. I realised that "pilot" isn't just a word in the dictionary, because I saw pilots at work on the flight deck.

The turning point came when I booked a jump seat on the flight deck as a passenger (a perk of being airline staff). I saw the whole operation of the flight from the deck and then I understood what pilots do at different stages of the flight, how they communicate and how they multitask. Being a pilot is challenging and I like a challenge. I felt like this role was for me. That was the first time I ever thought I wanted to be a pilot.
"Don't listen to people who say you can't do something because it is too hard. You don't know how hard anything is until you try!"

How did you make the move onto the flight deck?

First, I needed to know that I really wanted to do this – so I did some ground classes and trial flights. I also did some extra study to be sure that I would be able to handle the job. Once I felt prepared and ready, I applied for the Cathay Cadet Pilot Scheme. The selection process is rigorous and took about six months. I was accepted onto the scheme, which involves an intensive course in Australia.
Christina Ho

What were the challenges you faced in training?

As I do not have a background in mathematics or physics, I needed to work extra hard compared to the others. Also, while many other pilot training courses can run for up to a period of three years, Cathay's takes just 53 weeks – which means you are doing the equivalent of three days' work in one. It requires a lot of hard work and discipline. You need to get each task done, then focus on the next one and you must look after your health.

There was also one solo flight which I found particularly challenging. I was faced with difficult operating conditions and a number of interruptions during the flight, but despite all these, I did my best landing ever – because I was concentrating so hard and remembering everything I had been taught. I learned a lot about myself, especially how I react in stressful situations, so it ended up being great experience for me.

What are your plans for the future?

Every pilot wants to be a captain one day – but I'm not in a rush, I want to learn. There are many great senior staff here who have given me plenty of good advice and can teach me a lot. One day, I'd really like to be a training captain so I can pass my knowledge onto my trainees. Because, when you teach people, you also learn from them – they give you back something new.

What advice would you give to other women considering the role of pilot?

Go and try and believe in yourselves! Women are doctors and lawyers but so few (only around five percent) become pilots. Maybe it is because, like me, they just didn't consider it as a career. When I first started, I didn't know anything about the job – but I knew that I could learn. Don't listen to people who say you can't do something because it is too hard. You don't know how hard anything is until you try!
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