Ona, as she likes to be called was born on December 18th 1984, with the strength and will to conquer anything.
She tells me, "I'm a person who is often misjudged and underestimated by society. I'm a very petite lady. Trust me, I am PETITE, but that doesn't bother me... guess I'm just born with some unique inner strong faith and character."
Ona's inner strength is apparent. Her dream to become a pilot began when she was ten or eleven years old. Her interest was sparked as she watched aircraft takeoff and land and the excitement of the sound of engines, whether spooling up or down, has never board her. "I just love to watch airshows."
Her initial ambition was to become a fighter pilot. She applied but tells me her "destiny was not there." She joined the commercial aviation academy in 2004 - MFA: Malaysian Flying Academy, located in Malacca. WMKZ.
Mid 2005 she joined Air Asia Berhad - call sign Asian Express - in 2006, and flew the A320 for three years. She is now on the A330 with their sister company Air Asia X - call sign Xanadu - a low cost, medium to long haul operation. In 2009, until present she is flying as a first officer.
Ona currently has a total of 4400 hours and there are 18 pilots with her company. Three or four in FireFly Airline, two with Berjaya, and a lot of pilots in their RMAF - Royal Malaysian Air Force.
Karlene: Ona, you've achieved so much in your life. Did your family support your dream to fly?
Ona: My parents did support me for my flying school, which I am thankful for that. Because they know my dream is to become a pilot. In my room there is nothing but posters of airplanes, books on both military and commercial flying, and airplane models.
Karlene: You have passion, and your family supported you. But every life has challenges. How about yours?
Ona: Yes, I have faced quite a few challenges in life both personal and work wise. At first only few believe that I will achieve this dream. That would be my parents and cousins. Teachers, public, few friends, few family members, and boyfriends never did believe in me. But then again, it doesn't bother me.
Karlene: I smile when I hear you didn't listen to those people who didn't believe in you. I didn't listen to those who told me I couldn't do it, either. How did you overcome the doubt in others?
Ona: I am the only one who knows my capability, and how strong I am mentally. It's just built in me, that if I want something I will go all out and achieve it. If I have to blood it out. I will. That is my principle. I take my job seriously and I am very professional when it comes to my job and flying.
Karlene: That is an excellent principle to live by. What do you think your greatest strength in proving you can do the job is?
Ona: Well if flying, of course people wouldn't believe that I'm a pilot because of my size and my looks. The only way I can prove to them that I am capable in doing this, is by knowledge, how I work, and my performance.
Karlene: Knowledge and performance is the best way to prove to anyone you can do the job. Have you ever had a problem with keeping your positive attitude?
Ona: I had my downfall late last year. I was being grounded. I had some incident. I was being grounded for 3 times in a short period of time. I was depressed, angry with myself, took my weight away. Because I know I am not like this. And I'm not expecting this in my career. I take a step back, to breathe, to see the bigger pictures. One thing I like about my own system is that I turn negative feedback and build it as my core strength to get up again. And say to myself... I will shine again one day. The harder I fall, the higher I will bounce back up. I have faith Karlene, mind my English.
Karlene: Your English is great. I really like the image of bouncing higher the harder you fall. That's a great way to live life.
Ona: Because of my faith and high determination I just SMILE, and never ever give up. I'm the type I care less what people say about me. Yes I am slow in learning. But I never fail to try and understand the aircraft system, procedures, etc... You and I both know there's a lot to read up right?
Karlene: Yes. I do know that. I also know from your emails there is a lot more to you than meets the eye. You're all woman and pilot. Bottom line is, women are different. We're made different and our multi-focused minds gives us full lives inside and outside the cockpit. We have so many challenges, more emotions, and expectations. Maybe that's why we understand the Airbus... she too is a woman. So, tell me more about the personal life challenges.
Ona: If I elaborate on my personal challenges, that's another book to write. Hahhaha. It is hard for me Karlene. So hard. But the guts in me, made me stand and where I am now. Because I told myself I wanna be apart of the aircraft. I wanna feel the aircraft. Aviation is my world. And hey I bake cupcakes too. Lately I'm in to cooking. And I love cats. I have 12 of em.
Karlene: I do know how hard it is to deal with personal challenges while keeping up with the massive studies that it takes to learn such a complex airplane. Despite all your challenges, you know who you are and what you want in life. You're not afraid to go after it. We all make mistakes, but you have your priorities in focus with your professionalism and always increasing your knowledge. By the way, I bake too.
Ona: Trust me, I'm more than a deep soul pilot. :)
Karlene: I know you are. You are an amazing woman and an example to everyone that anything is possible if you have the right attitude and confidence. We'll get together one day and write that book on your life. It will be a best seller. Thank you so much for joining us today and making this Friday extra special because you were here.
Enjoy the Journey!