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Against All Odds

My name is Peter, and I am an A320 Junior First Officer with Jetstar Asia at the time of writing.

My wife visiting me during my training in Hamilton, New Zealand

I had wanted to be a pilot for as long as I can remember, and I applied to be a pilot with the RSAF at the first available opportunity straight out of Polytechnic, even before I enlisted for National Service in 2007. My application was successful, and I cleared the Air Grading Selection. I was on course to become a pilot with the RSAF, that is, until a previously undetected minor medical issue was discovered midway into my training, and my career was cut short even before it began.

While I was very disappointed, I moved on with life and resumed my studies in Electronic and Electrical Engineering at NTU with the full intention of applying for an airline once I graduated in 2012. However, that year, the airlines in Singapore stopped hiring due to an economic downturn. I had no choice but to put my dreams on hold once more and managed to get employed as a Software Engineer, again with the full intention of applying to any airline that was hiring. Little did I know that it would eventually take 6 years of attempts, applying to various airlines locally and abroad, and going for a handful of assessments and interviews, with nothing but rejections year after year. I was already 32 years old by this point, but I told myself that I would continue applying despite recognising that the odds were stacked against me.

Diamond DA-42 Twin Star

The Jetstar Asia Cadet Program opened for applications in early 2018, and my application was accepted. I made it through the assessment and interviews. I could barely believe it when I received the email that I had cleared the final interview. I was accepted into their training program and would eventually be an airline pilot upon successful completion of it. It was still a giant leap of faith as I was already well-established in my current job, and not to mention that I would have to go overseas to complete my training while my wife had to stay behind in Singapore. But it was a leap I knew I had to make to achieve my dream of being a pilot.

Revion Ground School visit to Seletar Airport Control Tower

It was at this point in my journey that I first met Youhao in early 2019. Jetstar Asia appointed Revion Ground School to provide ground school training before we went to L3 Harris (Hamilton, New Zealand) for our flight training. The ground school program was very well run, and I could not have asked for a better experience. The lessons were broken down to be easy to understand, and the pacing was understandably intense but manageable as long as one was mentally prepared for it. Youhao and the instructors were always available to answer any doubts, even after classroom hours and on the weekends, and we received the best help we could get to clear the 14 ATPL exam papers.

After completing ground school, I went to L3 Harris in Hamilton, New Zealand, for flying training with my fellow batchmates. The training was fantastic, and every flight was a wonderful experience.

National Day with the Singaporean Cadets

The solo navigation flights were a highlight of my training. We soared through the skies in Diamond DA-20s, embarking on flights up to 3 hours. Navigating using paper charts, as there was no GPS in the DA-20s, was a thrilling challenge. We had to apply our theoretical knowledge to reach our destinations. I cherished every minute of my flying time and look back with nothing but fond memories.

Solo navigation flight

Night navigation flight

However, 6 months into our training, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and all our training stopped due to lockdowns. The lockdowns were lifted after 2 months, but the aviation world was not the same after that, and the demand for pilots dipped to zero. Jetstar Asia put our induction on hold indefinitely, and we finished our CPL training knowing that the immediate future would be a big question mark. We resumed our training regardless, and it was a surreal experience as life in New Zealand went back to normal while the rest of the world carried on with their respective lockdowns. I did my Instrument Flying training in the Cessna 172 and twin-engine training in the Diamond DA-42 Twinstar. It was a very bittersweet time when we finally finished our training. It was time to leave with our new Commercial Pilot License with Multi-Engine Instrument Rating, but no job was waiting for us, nor were there any available vacancies to apply to.

DA-42 Twin Star Familiarisation flight

I returned to Singapore at the end of 2020 and had to once again join the workforce as a Software Engineer. I remembered constantly checking the state of the aviation industry and the COVID-19 pandemic nearly every day on the news, eager to hopefully resume my career as a pilot. It took a two-and-a-half long and uncertain years before the news of recovery finally emerged. In late 2023, my batchmates and I received a long-awaited call from Jetstar Asia to begin our Airbus A320 type-rating.

Another challenge was having to do the type-rating after so many years of not touching an aircraft, but we met it head-on and managed to brush off our dormant and rusty skills to be qualified A320 pilots within 3 months.

Airbus 320 simulator type rating

Looking back on all this, it was a very tough journey that ultimately took 17 years of painful setbacks and learning experiences since my first application to the RSAF in 2007 till today. But I am very glad that my resilience paid off, and I am finally exactly where I want to be today, doing what I love as a career.

A320 Base Training

For aspiring pilots, I advise you to maintain steadfast diligence and never underestimate the value of perseverance. You might not succeed today, but it is not the end of your journey. Your next attempt could be the one that propels you into this extraordinary career in the skies.

Cruising somewhere at 33,000 ft



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