Once Rachel had experienced what it was like to fly, she knew she wanted to become a pilot.
It all started when her mother brought her up to fly with her in a jet for the first time when she was six. Ever since then, she never stopped wanting to return back up to the skies.
“From young, I always wanted to be like them,” said Rachel Wong, 18, referring to her pilot parents. Her mother – whom Rachel frequently accompanies on flights – flies a Cessna aircraft as a hobby, while her father is a fighter jet pilot.
Hoping to follow in her father’s footsteps, Rachel’s goal is to fly fighter planes in the air force, specifically the F-16. The ‘A’ level graduate said: “I think it’s a good way to serve the country.”
However, before she is even allowed to fly a fighter jet, there are many courses and tests Rachel has to go through. Two years ago, while in her first year at Anglo-Chinese Junior College, she joined the Singapore Youth Flying Club, hoping to obtain her Private Pilot License (PPL).
When she finished her course at ground school and was allowed to fly with an instructor, she had to go through three phases. Two of these were part of the Basic Flying Course, which was one to two months each, and the last phase was the PPL phase, which spanned over six months.
“It requires commitment and the correct attitude and aptitude for flying. As such, not everyone is able to make it to the PPL phase,” said Rachel. Of the initial 16 people in Rachel’s course, only four made it to the PPL phase.
In order to get her PPL, Rachel had to pass her final handling test, which is a practical test, as well as seven theory tests which she studied for in ground school. With so much taking place during her JC years, Rachel admitted that it was not easy to juggle so many commitments.
“I play on the tennis team, and I have school. In SYFC, every flight is graded, so it’s important to do every flight properly, and there’s a lot to prepare for each flight,” she said.
However, that did not stop her from persevering. “As stressful as it is, I always still want to get back up there,” she said.
She explained: “It always feels nice to be back up there – having control of the aircraft is certainly one of the best feelings in the world. Sometimes when I’m up there and the view is so nice, I just want to capture it in a bottle.”
She finally obtained her PPL after almost a year in SYFC. In total, she clocked in about 65 hours of flying time. Even with all the exposure however, she admitted there were times she doubted her ability.
For example, when she flew solo for the first time with no instructor at her side, she felt excited, but also incredibly anxious. She had to depend on herself for the entire one hour of the flight.
“But after I took off, it was all back to normal, because you practice so many times it eventually becomes second nature. When I touched down, I was like, did I actually do it?” she recalled, still almost in disbelief.
Rachel remarked: “Sometimes, it’s self-induced stress because you worry whether or not you’re good enough, when actually there was no need to worry that much. I think it’s important to believe and just do your best, and see where it takes you. Preparation is also very important. If you prepare well, chances are your flight will be okay.”
Now that Rachel has gotten her PPL, what’s in store for her next?
“Right now I’m waiting for my medical results from the military. If everything goes well, then I’ll join the air force and they will hopefully stream me in with the fighter pilots, depending on my performance,” she said.
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