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Success Is Not Final, Failure Is Not Fatal

Hi! I’m Ryan Chin. At the time of writing, I am currently undergoing the Boeing 777 Type Rating training with a local airline.

Growing up, the thought of becoming a pilot has definitely crossed my mind but I never actively sought out avenues in pursuing it. Having learnt the game of golf since I was 7, I had the opportunity of representing my school in local tournaments. My training instilled and attuned my mindset around focus and discipline with fair respect to competition.

It's a common saying that golf is a game played in the space between your ears, and it has definitely helped develop my mental state to be more self-accepting of mistakes. More importantly, to look at the bigger picture and play the long game.

Knowing my strength and weaknesses, coupled with a background in sports, I was interested in occupations such as a sports physiotherapist, chiropractor and the likes. I always had the mentality where as long as it was not something I knew I would dislike, every other job seemed fine to me.

I was from Catholic Junior College where I studied Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Economics. Following Junior College, I enlisted for National Service (NS) in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 2015. While in Basic Military Training (BMT), the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) came down to give us a talk about the various vocations that we could express our interest in should we decide for a career with the military.

Seeing this opportunity present itself to me, without hesitation, I expressed my interest in the Pilot vocation. After passing the COMPASS test, I was sent for the aeromedical examinations and was told to wait for the results. Unfortunately, I did not pass the test and as a result, my application was rejected.

Upon completion of BMT, I was posted to the Singapore Police Force (SPF) as an Officer Cadet. After commissioning as an Inspector, I was assigned to the Operations Department at the Police Headquarters where I served my duties as an Assistant Manpower Officer. Towards the end of my NS, I requested to be attached to a ground division where I spent some time doing plainclothes duties such as conducting anti-vice operations. 6 months before ORD, I applied to RSAF for the second time, but I faced rejection yet again and my chances of becoming an RSAF pilot were no longer possible.

An official gathering as we were approaching the completion of our NS in the SPF.

After completing my NS in April 2017, I was to matriculate at the National University of Singapore (NUS) in August 2017 to start my 4-year undergraduate programme for a Bachelor’s Degree in Science.

In the interim, I applied for various airline’s cadet pilot programmes but did not make it through the initial interviews, group assessment etc. Probably I lacked the conviction and determination that might have enabled me to succeed. Back then, it also didn’t help that I did not have the full support from my family. After dealing with the disappointment of recurring rejections, I gradually formed a strong resolve on becoming a pilot, and turn it into my career. On hindsight, fate needed me to be rejected multiple times, otherwise, I would not have committed myself to the cause and be where I am today.

After much deliberation, I told my parents that I would like to set my studies aside to solely pursue this career by trying for a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) as a private student. At that point in time, it helped that there were sentiments about an increasing pilot shortage globally.

However, they were not convinced that I should be taking such a big risk, forgoing tertiary education at such a young age. Their main concern was whether I would ultimately be able to find employment with an airline knowing that there are many pilots out there who met an abrupt halt in their dreams because they were unable to find a job after obtaining their licences. Secondly, having failed the aeromedical test by the RSAF, would I still be able to pass the Class 1 Medical that is needed to be a commercial pilot?

I did my research and consulted a family friend who works as a pilot at a local airline. She recommended her former instructor from Singapore Flying College, Youhao who had just recently founded Revion Ground School. Hence, I set up a meeting between myself, my father and Youhao to find out more information on what we should expect and if we should go ahead with the plan of me pursuing a CAAS CPL as a private student.

Youhao shared with us that he partnered with L3Harris Airline Academy, formerly known as CTC Aviation. The ground school was based in Singapore, and I would have to complete 14 CAAS ATPL examinations. At the time, there were only part-time courses available, thus classes would be on alternate days of the week and the whole ground school was scheduled to complete in 1 year instead of the usual 6 months that full-time students work towards. Upon completion, I would be flying over to New Zealand for another year to complete the flying phase in training.

Prior to the start, I am required to be interviewed by the L3Harris’s cadet selection team as it is a part of their process in determining if an individual possesses the attributes to become a commercial pilot. While Youhao was very upfront and forthcoming about the costs and difficulties that this journey would entail, he stood by his philosophy that one should exhaust all possibilities before coming to him as a last resort. He advised me to apply for every airline’s cadet pilot programme and come back to him only if I failed and still wanted to pursue this. While I acknowledged his advice, I conveyed to Youhao that I would like to apply immediately as I had given myself a deadline (before my University commences) to make a decision. Should I be unsuccessful in the assessment and interview with L3Harris, at least I could go on to pursue my degree knowing I tried my best.

An excerpt of the success letter from L3.

Fortunately, I passed the selection interview and secured a slot with L3Harris as a whitetail (private) cadet. I then went on to apply and successfully obtained the CAAS Class 1 Medical. Knowing that things were slowly coming together, my parents were eventually convinced of my determination and gave me their full support. With that, I withdrew from NUS and started as an ab-initio cadet pilot with Revion Ground School on November 2017 with 2 others.

Ground school was not easy at all. Not having touched physics since secondary school, I was having a hard time understanding theory-heavy topics such as Principles of Flight and Meteorology. Also, there were many different jargons and phrases that are frequently used in the aviation world that I was unable to adapt to.

Fortunately, Youhao was more than willing to go the extra mile in explaining things in different ways and that helped us absorb the content easier. Among the three of us, we also had regular discussions and study sessions throughout the different modules, as naturally, someone would grasp the concept faster than the other two. This enabled us to learn collaboratively and made sure that we all progressed together as a course.

(Clockwise from left): Shawn, myself, Aaron and Youhao. Aaron was later accepted into the Jetstar Asia Cadet Pilot Programme.

Fast forward a very challenging one year of ground school and 14 exams later, I achieved first-time passes in all subjects and completed ground school. In October 2018, I left Singapore for New Zealand to commence the flying phase of my training.

Departure to New Zealand.

Learning to fly is no easy task, and one can almost never be ready for it unless he/she has had prior experience. The first obstacle was to get us proficient in handling the aircraft safely and confidently, followed by flying whilst communicating with Air Traffic Control (ATC) and/or other traffic to get us ready for our first solo. In every flight, my mental capacity was constantly overloaded as my instructor slowly passed on more responsibilities for me to manage and get used to. After completing our first solo check, we moved on to basic handling manoeuvres such as steep turns, engine failures and lastly, flight planning and navigation. Solo navigation flights made up most of my flying hours under the Visual Flight Rules (VFR), where I had the chance to explore a big portion of the beautiful North Island, even landing at 3 different domestic airports during my Qualifying Cross Country (QXC) flight.

View of the Auckland CBD during one of my navigation flights.

After completing the basic phase of flying under VFR, we transitioned to the advanced phase of training where we only use our instruments under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). This trained us in flying purely off our instruments found in the aircraft without visual reference to the outside world. We were taught to execute procedures such as holding patterns, instrument approaches, missed approaches and even navigating using traditional radio navigation aids such as NDBs, DMEs and VORs. Following a series of check flights, I was able to move on to the final phase of training, which was flying the Diamond DA42 twin-engine aircraft for the CPL and Instrument Rating check flights under VFR and IFR respectively.

DA42 Flight Navigation and Procedures Trainer, which is a fixed-based simulator used at the start of the IFR Phase.

In November of 2018, we were informed by Youhao that Revion was in midst of forming a potential partnership with a local airline, where graduates would be recommended to them upon completion of their training for the Direct Entry scheme.

After the partnership was successfully formed in mid-July 2019, all whitetail Singaporean cadets were invited to apply for a position with the airline under the Direct Entry Second Officer scheme. This was another stressful period during my training as formal interviews were never my strong suit, and I was in the midst of gearing up for my CPL check flight which was round the corner. Having to juggle preparing for a flight test while brushing up on interview skills with fellow peers was challenging yet fruitful as we were able to help out one another improve our interview skills. I always felt that I was at a disadvantage being the youngest cadet, not having prior working experience nor having anyone in my family within the aviation industry. After weeks of excruciating wait following the interview and simulator assessments in September, I was successful and obtained a conditional offer!

Youhao visited us during our training in NZ.

Overall, I am thankful that my flight training was not interrupted in the sense of not having to repeat any training flights and achieving a first-time pass for my CAAS CPL and Instrument Rating check flights. I graduated from L3Harris Airline Academy in late September 2019.

Coming back to Singapore, I had to apply for my flight crew licence to be printed and validated by CAAS, as well as renewing my Class 1 Medical which was required by the company before they were able to officially present me with an official contract of employment.

I have since commenced my employment with a local airline in January 2020, am currently assigned to the Boeing 777 fleet. To date, I am undergoing Type Rating training, almost completing it before progressing to Line Training as a Second Officer.

Diamond DA42 Twin Star that I flew in for the later part of IFR training, as well as for my CPL and IR flight tests.

However, the current pandemic has severely impacted the aviation industry and our training has been put on hold temporarily. At times like this, we are once again reminded of how dynamic and susceptible the aviation industry is to any crises globally.

While the road to recovery might take a while, I am confident that we will be able to rebuild ourselves and flourish even greater than what we once were.



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