Women with flying dreams

A dry spring morning mingles with the crisp laughter of three young woman, Hao, Luong, and Huong talk about the choices that led them here, training to be pilots in a profession still dominated by men.

Vo Thanh Hao followed her parerts from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City in 1996 when she was o­nly ten. In 2004, in excellent health and with a certain strengtr of character, Hao became o­ne of the firs female flight students in Vietnam.


Nguyen Thi Huong is from Ha Tay. She took her entrance exams with the complete support of her family. At 20, Huong looks timid and speaks little, which ­seems in contrast with the things that she has done, and continues to do, in the harsh field of flight training. Here there are no boundaries, there is no prejudice, something that often surprises the women who persistently ask themselves: why canet a woman do what a man does? With this thought in mind, woman like Huong were able to surpass the difficulties of their new surround.


But it was Pham Thi Luong's story that surprised me the most. Born in 1983, Luong is youthful and natural. She is from Thai Binh Province in the North, but she and her family live in Ho Chi Minh City. After graduating from high school, Luong went o­n to study at the University of Economics in Ho Chi Minh City.


After 4 years of study, she abandoned the profession that her family so approved of to join pilot training. Luong’s decision to turn back and practically start over from the beginning her family in shock. Despite a certain regret for those 4 spent years of study, Luong guards the image of her small, delicate hands the image of her small, delicate hands pushing an airplane through the blue skies, helping to tear her way from feelings of regret.


The crisp sound of laughter echoes out lucidly – few could believe that inside the young women are pursuing a severe training course. Physical strength alone presents a challenge to these thin twenty-something girls who now spend everyday o­n swings and staircases, playing volleyball and basketball, swimming, running, and lifting weights, not to mention the 9-month training course itself. To be selected, they first had to pass a stric examination. In the class 11 examination of 2004, they had to beat 6,000 other applicant to be among the 29 students picked in the entire country, among which o­nly 4 were women. The class 12 and 13 examinations added another 4 female students.


Hai, the man responsible for managing the students, provided us with ample information about the Flight Training Center in the South. Students must first make it through a 9-month training course in Vietnam. If after this period the students are still able and ambitious, they go o­n to train abroad. Vietnam Airlines curently works with other pilot training courses in Australia and France. Trainers from these two countries fly to Vietnam to personally interview the candidates, cheking their IQ, English abilities, and other skills. After the next group of students has been selected, the pilots to be will continue their studies in Australia and France for a period of o­ne and a half to two years. This means that in order to become an offical pilot with a license to fly, candidates must train for 3 years, at the very least. Otherwise, the average candidates spends 4 to 5 in training, or never becomes a pilot at all. The total fees of a single student to go from amateur to offical pilot cost somewhere around 100,000 USD. This considerable investment, if completed succesfully, will later be compensated for in the hiring rates for foreign pilots.


Hao, Luong, and Huong often speak of “confidence” and “opportunity”. All three of them are to be interview by foreign trainers after the Tet New Year holidays. I ask them whether they think they’ll pass. The three young women respond deliberately but with determination: we’re all in the same place, with the same opportunity, and each is ready to give it her best./.

International relation departement (Heritage)