Childhood dreams of soaring through the skies are becoming a reality for more than just the elite, according to local pilots.
Three Cathay Pacific pilots, co-authors of Cathay Pacific Pilot Book II, yesterday urged more young Hongkongers who aspire to a career in aviation to try their luck.
Poor eyesight, mediocre language skills, an underprivileged background and being female are just some of the concerns cited as preventing hesitant youngsters from following their dreams.
When women think of an airline career, they 'always think about cabin crew first', said pilot Wendy Leung Wing-man, 37, who wears glasses.
'They are not sure they can control the aircraft,' but physical strength is not an issue because the planes are automatic, she said. Women make up only three per cent of pilots worldwide. Leung puts this down to a 'lack of understanding' of the industry among women.
Ron Chan Pui-lung, 35, studied architecture at university despite a long-term interest in aviation because he did not come from a wealthy family and believed a career as a pilot was 'an impossible dream'.
He joined Cathay Pacific's eighth cadet pilot programme in 2000, a 60-week intensive training course which does not require applicants to the cover costs of learning to fly.
Airbus pilot Sunny Chan Ho-wan, 40, who began his aviation career flying search-and-rescue helicopters, describes the perfect pilot as a quick learner with leadership skills, very good communication skills and quick reaction times.
'If you really have a passion for flying, many issues can be resolved,' said Ron Chan. 'We recruit a lot more local pilots. They now know it's not only for expats or ex-military.'
Being a pilot can take you right into the middle of the action. Ron Chan was flying from Hong Kong to Vancouver on September 11, 2001, and had to divert the aircraft when US air space was shut down. Chan described his shock at the terrorist attacks and his sobering realisation that 'air travel would never been the same again'.
Cathay Pacific aim to recruit 83 new pilots in 2012, the highest number since the airline launched its cadet pilot programme in 1988, when fewer than 10 pilots were hired.