Job takes you up, up and away
Requirements: First and foremost, you need a passion for flying. You must also be a mature and responsible team player who can make the right decision at critical moments.
Qualifications: A career with the Government Flying Service (GFS) usually starts at cadet pilot level. You don't need a pilot's licence when you apply, but you should have a pass in two subjects at A-level, and Grade C/Level 3 in three other subjects, including mathematics and English language, at HKCEE. Those who are not proficient in Chinese may also apply. Applicants must also pass a medical examination, including a vision assessment, and a pilot aptitude test.
Average pay: A cadet pilot's salary starts at about HK$18,010.
Work prospects: Cadet pilots at the GFS normally undergo training for three years, which includes 14 months in places like Australia, the United States or Britain to get a professional pilot's licence. They spend the rest of the time in Hong Kong, learning the skills required to work for the GFS.
GFS pilots work shifts. Jobs can include search and rescue missions within the 400-nautical-mile radius of the Hong Kong Flight Information Region.
Sometimes the unit also assists in missions organised by the Civil Aviation Department and the Maritime Rescue and Co-ordination Centre.
Helicopters are usually used for search and rescue operations, including missions to locate lost or injured climbers and hikers in remote areas or outlying islands. Most of these operations tend to be conducted in bad weather conditions. The GFS is extremely busy during typhoons or other natural disasters.
Besides search and rescue work, the unit serves government officers and departments, and provides air ambulance services to transport casualties to hospital. The GFS also helps police and firefighters, and takes government officers to flood-hit areas to assess the damage caused to property and crops.
Long-term prospects: Promotion depends on performance and experience. It usually takes a few years to progress to the next level. After cadet pilot status, pilots progress through pilot II, pilot I, senior pilot and finally chief pilot. Other than flying, they are also responsible for management, training and evaluation of less-qualified pilots as they move up the ladder.
Where to apply: Visit www.gfs.gov.hk for job openings.
A day at work
Ardis Tang Sing-tung, a senior pilot with the GFS, says the unit operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Pilots work eight-hour shifts, Tang says. When pilots get to work, they are briefed on assignments and potential rescue missions. They are kept up to date with air traffic and weather conditions, and must be ready at any time for rescue jobs.