HAVING EXCELLENT eyesight is the most important requirement for this career. You guessed it! It is being a pilot. One of the first locally trained pilots, senior first officer Mark Lam Tse-fung, 35, has been in the fascinating profession for 10 years. And first officer Candy Wu Suk-fun, 29, is Hong Kong's first female pilot. Both of them entered the industry through the cadet pilot programme organised by Cathay Pacific. Since the airline launched the programme in 1988, it has produced more than 130 pilots, about 30 of whom are women. After graduating from the Institute of Education in 1988, Mr Lam heard that the airline was recruiting for its cadet programme. As he had no offers of teaching jobs, he decided to apply for the programme. He was sent to Scotland where he trained for 16 months. 'Being a pilot, I can travel around the world and see many things,' says the pilot, who has flown to more than 30 cities. 'My perspectives have been broadened.' Ms Wu received her pilot training in Adelaide, Australia after completing her civil and structural engineering degree at the University of Hong Kong. 'A pilot's lifestyle suits me. I really like it,' she says. 'I can fly here and there, and there are no fixed working hours. At the same time, I have plenty of time to myself as the time between flights is our own.' Like all candidates wanting to join the intensive cadet pilot training scheme, Mr Lam and Ms Wu had to have eyesight examinations to ensure they were fit to be pilots. While training overseas, cadets learn how to fly a single-engine aircraft, how to read instruments in the cockpit and weather charts and how to use the radio system. They also study aviation law and navigation. Mr Lam says: 'When you drive a car, it's just two-dimensional steering. But when it comes to a plane, you also have to take the vertical dimension into account. It is much more difficult.' After their overseas training, both pilots had to spend a few more months learning how to fly commercial aircraft to get a licence from the Civil Aviation Department. This enables them to become second officers in the cockpit, helping the captain during long flights. However, second officers are not allowed to take off or land the aeroplane. These are tasks reserved for senior officers. During their first three years as second officers, the two pilots had to undertake regular training in a flight simulator to learn how to cope with emergency situations during a flight. Flying at a speed of around 1,000 kilometres per hour, the experience is an exciting one. Mr Lam says: 'The satisfaction I get from being a pilot is not something that I could get from teaching, I don't think.' Flying at a height of 30,000 feet, pilots get to see spectacular sights that few people see, such as the northern lights over the North Pole, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and glaciers and mountains in the Himalayas, Mr Lam says. Although you do not have to be a science or engineering buff to be a pilot, your command of the English language has to be good. Ms Wu says: 'All aviation language is in English, and you also have to use English to communicate with the controller wherever you go.' For those who are interested in the career, both pilots have the same advice: study hard and be assertive. Ms Wu says: 'This industry is not like others. We have to take examinations every year to renew our aviation licence. Although they are all about aviation, you still have to study.' Mr Lam adds that a healthy lifestyle is crucial too. 'We have to undergo a thorough annual medical check-up. If you have any health problems, you may lose your licence.'