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Flying High in a Man’s World.

We live in the 21st century, the human civilisation era, gender equality is still a controversial topic across different sectors and cultures in the world. While the sky is open to everyone, there is a wide gap between numbers of male and female pilots in the aviation industry.

Today, I would like to share an inspiring story of one of Brookfield’s female pilots, Sheetal Somla from South Africa. She is currently flying for Bamboo Airways in Vietnam as an Airbus 320 First Officer.

Brief aviation background

“I started flying in 2007 and completed a full ATPL in 2013 with a grade 2 Instructors rating. I worked at Africa Aviation Academy giving instruction as well as flying for a survey and engineering company in Angola. In 2017 I paid for an A320 rating and started working for Global Airways. It had been a wonderful experience flying all over the world from the Middle East, Africa, Asia to Europe. However, the world is not small and there is a lot to experience and progress to be gained for my career. The day you stop learning is the day you should give up flying. In May 2019, I joined Bamboo Airways with Brookfield Aviation as A320 First Officer. I feel good to be a part of a company that strives to be number one. My new life in Vietnam is amazing, the people are friendly and the food is good.”

Sheetal on the left, with Global Airways crews

Sheetal on the left, with Global Airways crews

Inspiration to become a pilot

“My initial experience with aviation was attending an air show with my grandmother at age 7. After attending the university studying a BSc Sports Science, my heart still wanted to be in the air despite the financial challenges, which are always a big part of many scenarios.

“My inspiration is and always will be my late mom. She always believed in me and my ability in everything I wanted to do. She lit up my world from the very first day I opened my eyes and I will always be eternally grateful for her extraordinary support.”

Most challenges as a female pilot

“Personally, the most challenging part of being a female pilot is having to prove to male colleagues that you are very much capable of performing your duties and are skilful in what we do. To overcome this challenge in any situation is be good at what you do and set a high standard for yourself. By doing this, you can be looked at as an equal not an inferior or incapable. You will be judged as a pilot not a female.”

Sheetal with Bamboo Airways male pilots for Wet Drills in KUL.

Adaptation to male pilots

“Adaptation is a skill that's not just necessary to work with a male pilot but also broader in the aviation industry. Every day is a different scenario and as professional pilots, we need to be able to adapt from day one. As such we work with various crews, instructors, regulations, aircraft and handling situations, etc. Therefore, it is mandatory to have good communication skills and bubbly personality to work in this unique environment.”

The most rewarding

“For me, it is having an opportunity to work with multimillion US dollar aircraft, which is only accessible to certain people. In addition, after taking-off and flying above the clouds, witnessing beautiful sunsets and sunrises, then completing a perfect landing is the ultimate of rewards all in a day's work.”

Your message to other women, who want to be a pilot

“The sky is not the limit. When you fly the sky is where you long to be. If you really want to do something, you will find a way to accomplish. So, believe in your dreams, set your goals, and always keep bettering yourself. You have only one life to achieve success.”

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