Pioneering female pilot takes to the air with pride

Skilled airline captain trains aviators, juggles family life

By Luo Wangshu | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-01 08:11
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Huang He (left) heads for a flight with her crew members. [ZOU HONG/CHINA DAILY]

Balancing family life

Although very busy, Huang has a happy family with a 12-year-old son. However, balancing her demanding career with family life has been a challenge.

Huang's profession often requires her to be away from home for extended periods, preventing her from participating in her son's daily activities. Being a pilot, it is impossible to pick up her child from school every afternoon or join all the parent and teacher meetings.

Despite this, she has found unwavering support from her family, particularly her parents and in-laws, who have played a crucial role in caring for her son during her absences.

Thanks to Chinese tradition, the older generation (big family) usually supports the young family.

"I cannot spend as much time accompanying my son as mothers in many other professions do. In terms of that, there is no way to make up for it. It is a sense of loss," she said, adding that her family has been a great support in caring for her son.

Huang's son is independent and has grown accustomed to his mother's frequent absence, she said.

However, as a child, he has expressed his desire for her to pick him up from school occasionally.

"I told him honestly that I cannot pick him up from school, but I can share with him the work experiences from my journeys. I can tell him about my trips across the world, which might be different from other mothers' stories," Huang said.

Despite the challenges, there have been memorable moments. She fondly recalls being invited to her son's kindergarten to talk about her profession.

"I showed the class a picture of the cockpit and told them that it was my office. I also explained the basics of flying to the class. Many children, including my son, were curious and interested in aerodynamics. Some mothers even asked me if there were any storybooks about this topic. After the activity, some kids approached me and wanted to take photos with me. My son proudly said to them, 'That's my mother'. It was a delightful and proud moment," she said.

Calm demeanor

Huang's passion for flying was evident from the moment she flew solo during her training. The sense of freedom and responsibility she felt while piloting a small private jet for the first time was profound.

Her meticulous approach to her craft, constantly envisioning and preparing for potential emergencies, has been key to her success.

To become a proficient pilot, it is essential to thoroughly understand every detail in the flight handbook, a substantial manual, in addition to accumulating experience in flight operations. Core qualities such as adaptability and the ability to remain calm in challenging situations are also crucial, Huang said.

Having flown for nearly 20 years, Huang continually considers how to respond to emergencies when the air control officer radios her during takeoffs, carefully considering all potential scenarios.

"During takeoffs, I always consider what I should do in various emergency scenarios. What if I have to abort the takeoff? How should I react? Similarly, during every landing, I contemplate what I should do if I am unable to land, or if I need to initiate a go-around," she said.

Huang has developed the habit of envisioning various emergencies in advance and mentally rehearsing her responses to them.

"Sometimes, before I fall asleep, I close my eyes and contemplate different scenarios, considering how I would handle each one," she said.

In addition to her technical prowess, Huang's calm demeanor, emotional stability, and excellent communication skills have set her apart.

Her outgoing personality and passion for sports have contributed to her success in the cockpit, where good communication is vital for safety.

Huang also enjoys operating machines.

"If I were not a pilot, I might be teaching computer science at universities," she said.

Reflecting on her journey, Huang encouraged aspiring pilots, regardless of gender, to pursue their dreams.

"Do not be afraid. Give it a try. Being a pilot is a wonderful experience," she said.

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