Hi! I'm Pei Han. At the time of writing, I have completed my ground school at Revion and am currently waiting to embark on my flight training in New Zealand L3 Airline Academy.
As a young child, I have always been fascinated with the concept of flight and dreamt about flying my own aircraft. Coming from an average income family, I took my first flight as a passenger to Bangkok when I was 20 years old. I remembered feeling enthralled by the vastness of the sky and the euphoric feeling of being lifted into the air as the aircraft took off. The birds' eye view of everything beneath and the changing cloud patterns sold me.
Onboard a Skyhawk at RSAF Open House 1996. Tengah Air Base, Singapore.
My father was from the Air Force and it was inevitable that I was influenced from a young age. Through numerous visits to the airbases and open houses, I formed an unmistakable desire to become a pilot. Being determined to join the Air Force back then, I began familiarizing with the different types of military aircraft and was able to easily identify them whenever I spotted them whizzing through the skies.
Upon completion of the GCSE ‘A’ Levels, I applied to be a military pilot but was rejected as I failed the COMPASS test. Disappointed as I was, the desire to fly never left me.
Met a bunch of "WWII Pilots" promoting their play Flare Path while visiting a friend at University of Nottingham, UK.
Aside from my interest in flying, I was academically interested in biology. Thus, after my GCSE ‘A’ Levels I decided to pursue a degree in biomedical sciences. While studying, I found out about the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Paramedic Department and felt compelled to give it a try. I was interested in exploring how concepts learnt in my ongoing biomedical science degree could be put into practice as a Paramedic concurrent to the completion of my studies.
Unfortunately, the application was rejected. With the encouragement of a former classmate (a female firefighter in SCDF), I recognised my interest in applying learnt skills and knowledge in an active 'hands-on' approach that could be used to serve in the frontlines. Due to the physically demanding training, SCDF has fewer frontline females than the military and police but I was determined not to let gender hinder my path.
With sheer determination and a disciplined fitness regime, I was awarded Best in Physical Training in the firefighter training course. And bam! 6 months later, I was a full-time, full-fledged firefighter. My experience as a female firefighter in a predominantly male environment was not a deterrence as much as it was a motivation. I was able to get along well with my colleagues and thrive through fast-paced and stressful ad-hoc challenges that came with firefighting.
Again, I was keen to explore how the skills and temperament I garnered from firefighting could be further applied in a valuable manner as a frontline worker. In time, I took up the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Specialist course and became the first female EMT in SCDF, clinching the Best in Theory award for earning a perfect score during the training. As an EMT, I was able to send all the patients to the hospital safely while reacting promptly to all sorts of weather and traffic conditions with calm and composure. While it was both rewarding and enjoyable being in the frontline, a part of me still felt the desire to attempt flight school again. I was positive that through the experience of juggling SCDF work with my university education, I was developed and honed in the required character traits to better suit my dream job as a Pilot.
Sometime later I attended the CAAS Heart of Aviation Open house which had several flying schools offering programmes leading to a Commercial Pilot License. The school fees were sky high and there was no way I could enrol myself into any of it without robbing a bank. With the financial constraints, I applied to RSAF as a pilot once again. This time around, I prepped better by learning the 6 basic flight instruments and improved my multitasking ability, hand-eye coordination. Although I passed, my happiness was short-lived as I was still not offered the position of pilot. I thought then that dreams were meant to be dreams after all.
Female frontline firefighters, rare gems in the force. Clementi Fire Station, Singapore.
I then embarked on a three-year journey as a perfusionist, where I undertook a specialised role of working with cardiac professionals to manage patients who require cardiac surgery or circulatory support. Putting a patient on cardiac bypass requires extreme care and vigilance. I have to react quickly to changes in a patient’s blood pressure and it is crucial to take utmost care in performing my role as the machine provides life support to a patient. This is akin to aviation where hundreds of lives are in my hands as I operate the sophisticated machine, bringing people safely to their destinations and home to their loved ones. The aspects I enjoyed in my role as a perfusionist in the hospital again cemented my desire to reopen the closed doors to flight school.
Visiting an operating theatre with the state-of-the-art Heart-Lung Machine in Medizinische Universität Innsbruck, Austria.
In Jan 2019, I attended my good friend’s wedding. Sitting at a table with my friends and others of the same age, we chatted away and one of them shared that she was going to be a pilot. Pleasantly surprised to have found someone sharing the same dream, I inquisitively began to seek an answer through the experiences she generously divulged.
Through her groundwork, I was informed that there’s a new school offering scholarship for females. Emotions akin to a mixture of ambition, optimism and belief engulfed my being. This could simply be the kindle of hope I was searching for. It’s now or never. If she can do it, so can I! I returned home that night and immediately started working on my application. Shortly after, I received an email from Revion Ground School to attend an interview, followed by an aptitude test and another Skype interview with L3 Airline Academy. A few weeks later, I passed and was accepted at both Revion and L3!! I was extremely thrilled to be one step closer to my dream! Revion had opened doors I once imagined to have closed on me for good.
With my good friends and a female pilot-to-be at Hotel Jen Tanglin, Singapore
Ground school was a 10-months part-time Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) Theoretical Knowledge course. Others have spoken about the intensity and difficulties of the ground school, and it was nothing near easy. To prepare myself, I read through the United States Federal Aviation Administration Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge to get a brief inkling. There are familiar topics related to math and physics that we probably learnt in secondary school but it wouldn't affect much if you did not take those subjects back then.
This was one of my concerns initially when I started but rest assured that Revion has got your back. They will teach you everything you need to know and provide you resources you require to ace the exams. The part-time course allowed me to continue gainful employment in my previous profession while equipping myself with new knowledge and skills through a comprehensive and rigorous curriculum.
While work may at times be taxing, subjects overwhelming and time (and sleep!) not in your favour, it is through these "tough times" that you actually find out how capable you are and how much further you can push yourself to achieve your goals. You learn more than just ATPL knowledge at Revion, it was a personal period of self-discovery and strengthening of soft skills - time management, task prioritisation and relationship building etc. Forming a study group helped a lot as my batchmates and I shared our queries, explained and attempted questions together.
To quote Actress Tan Kheng Hua:
"If you want to feel excited about what you do, you need to surround yourself with like-minded people, to be "immersed in talent". It's the vibe you're looking for. Once you find the right people that you vibe with, you just suddenly feel like waking up, and working hard, and doing something. And the day just suddenly becomes enjoyable."
And this is exactly how I feel at Revion with the instructors and my batchmates RGS08!
RGS08 last lesson at 66 Seletar Aerospace View before we move to the new premises at JTC Aviation Two, Singapore.
Despite these experiences and achievements, my greatest pride is still being able to empower females in pursuing their dreams, especially in male-dominated environments which can appear daunting. Although the journey to arrive at this decision to apply as an aviation cadet has taken many turns, my dream persisted through the years. I believe that my work experiences have shaped me to be a person poised to take on the challenges of being a pilot. I always carry out my responsibilities with gusto and resilience, and I constantly push myself to be at my best.
As a female firefighter, I have been to many recruitment drives to share my experiences with aspiring females. I showed them that we are not defined by our gender and we are able to achieve anything we set our minds to. I believe that my experience of working in traditionally male-dominated fields, my determination and grit, my familiarity with fast-paced environments, as well as my ability to make sound decisions will help me become the female pilot I aspire to be. I have always chosen the route less travelled as it challenges me the most and helps me to grow. Becoming a pilot excites me as it gives me the opportunity to broaden my world view and make an impact on people’s lives. To date, I am still with SCDF as a volunteer firefighter and EMT.
For the aspiring pilots out there, “Aim for the sky. Even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars.” Always try, because if you never try, you'll never know. Start the journey early so you have more time and experience to prepare for it. And never give up on your dreams. Dreams do come true!
Instagram account of my journey at https://www.instagram.com/p4pilot/
Cohesion day for the cadets at Minds Cafe, Singapore.