飛行夢永不嫌遲!

──女機師詹玉琳
:::

2013 / 2月

文‧林欣靜 圖‧復興航空提供


復興航空是我國晉用女機師最「大方」的航空公司之一,目前該公司135名機師中,有7名(約5%)女機師。

 

45歲的詹玉琳,則是該公司最富傳奇色彩的女機師,她曾歷任財務部會計、空服員及座艙長等職務,直至40歲那年,才下定決心、轉換跑道開飛機。


下午4時,台北松山機場的復興航空貴賓室,出現一個清瘦窈窕的身影。

身著藍黑色筆挺制服的她,頂著完美的妝容,臉上滿是親切的微笑,若不是俐落的褲裝和衣袖亮閃閃的3條金槓,悄悄透露她的副機長身分,絕對會讓人誤以為是剛執勤完畢的空服員。

她就是有復興航空「最美麗女機師」之稱的詹玉琳,也是復興航空重點栽培的機師之一,更是未來A330-300新機輪班機師中的唯二女性。

鄰家女孩的親和特質

詹玉琳的優雅儀態,來自14年空服員的工作歷練。

1992年,自台中商專(現為國立台中技術學院)畢業的她,考入復興航空擔任會計人員。某日,在辦公室的走廊巧遇人資部主管,對方看她模樣清秀,主動詢問:「是否有意願轉任空服員?」

「以前我從未想過有飛上天空的一天。」詹玉琳說,因為自己有近視(現已進行雷射手術),又自覺外型不夠亮麗搶眼,但經過人資主管的探詢後,她腦中浮現「或許可以試試」的念頭,因此鼓起勇氣報名公開招募。

1993年,詹玉琳正式成為復興航空的機組人員,當時該公司的主力是國內航線。她指出,很多人常以為國內線的空中服務較為輕鬆,但早年台灣的國內線皆供應全套熱食,要在有限的時間內完成所有的安全解說及餐點供應並不容易;若逢天氣不佳、氣流不穩時,更是嚴峻的考驗。

「那種感覺很像是漫步在一波接一波的海浪上,我們得穩住自身腳步、維持各項機上服務的節奏,也須時時安撫旅客的不安情緒。」曾經在各種惡劣天氣飛航的詹玉琳,笑稱自己在執勤時從未暈機,反倒常在回到踏實的地面後,才開始浮起搖搖晃晃的暈眩感。

想飛,永不嫌遲

具備「天生吃這行飯」特質的詹玉琳,因表現優異,不到30歲就由空服員升為座艙長,也多次被公司委以重任,如2005年兩岸首次的台商春節直航包機,就是指定由她執勤。

身為座艙長的她,較有與前艙正、副機長接觸的機會,漸漸也開始對複雜的儀表和飛行操控產生濃厚興趣,常向同僚討教相關知識。

後來有位加拿大籍的機長鼓勵她:「既然這麼有興趣,何不自己去學開飛機?」「我原本覺得自己的年紀太大(當時近40歲),但機長卻告訴我:『It is never too late to get started!』」她回憶說。

40歲生日時,她立下轉換跑道的心願,在取得丈夫及家人的諒解後,毅然辦理留職停薪,並於2007年6月自費新台幣200萬元,前往美國奧勒崗州的飛行學校學開飛機。

雖然較其他同學年長,但多年空服員的經驗,卻讓她比別人早一步熟悉如何與塔台溝通及駕駛艙內部的複雜運作。

兩年過後,詹玉琳順利取得各項飛行執照。有次她先生來美國探訪,她還親自開飛機帶他到某家機場附設的餐廳吃牛排,先生又驚又喜,不敢相信嬌弱的另一半真的辦到了!

細心勝出的女性特質

回到台灣後,詹玉琳也通過相關的培訓課程與證照考試,並在2009年底,正式成為復興航空機師班底的一員。

不過,由於對性別的刻板印象,很多人會覺得女駕駛開車、開飛機的技術及反應不如男性,詹玉琳則指出,現在駕駛飛機多半使用儀器操控,通常得依循固定航線及速度飛行,性別差異的影響不大。

但駕駛飛機的另一個重點是必須隨時提高警覺,務求在系統一出現不對勁的小徵兆時,儘速解決問題,以免釀成禍端。因此機師必須具備優於常人的細心及敏銳度。「就這一點來說,女性比男性更有利,」她分析。

比較起不同階段的工作經驗,詹玉琳笑說,當然是可以掌握飛行全局的機師最有成就感。她回憶,有次飛機載了一群來自中南美洲的軍官前往花蓮觀光,恰由她主導飛行起降。

「花蓮機場靠山面海,要平穩降落頗有難度,但那次的降落非常順暢完美,結果那群軍官下機後,還特別站在停機坪向駕駛艙豎起大拇指致意,真的讓人非常開心!」她笑說。

下次有機會坐上復興航空的班機,不妨留意看看是否為詹玉琳或其他女機師執勤,她們的技術穩健,表現值得按個讚。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Never Too Late to Live Your Dream: Pilot Kris Zhan

Lin Hsin-ching /photos courtesy of courtesy of TransAsia Airways /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

In Taiwan Trans­Asia Airways is leading the way in employing women as pilots. Currently, seven of its pilots—or about 5% of its total of 135—are women.

 

Kris Zhan, 45, is the most celebrated of them. She previously worked as a bookkeeper, a stewardess, and an in-flight services manager at the airline, and it wasn’t until age 40 that she decided to change career tracks and work toward becoming a pilot.


At 4 p.m., in TransAsia’s VIP lounge in Songshan International Airport, there appears a woman with a slender and graceful silhouette.

Wearing a crisp navy-blue uniform, with not a hair out of place, she offers a friendly smile. She’s wearing a smart pantsuit, with three shiny gold stripes on the cuff of the jacket. These silently announce her status as an airline copilot. She is Kris Zhan, known as Trans­Asia’s most beautiful pilot.

“Girl next door” warmth

Zhan’s graceful bearing comes in part from her 14 years as a ­stewardess.

In 1992, upon graduating from National Tai­chung Junior College of Commerce (now National Taichung University of Science and Technology), she tested into a position as a bookkeeper at Trans­Asia. One day, in a hallway at the company offices, she happened to pass the company’s director of personnel, who saw how pretty she was and asked: “Would you be interested in switching jobs to work as a stewardess?”

“I hadn’t previously thought about flying,” Zhan says, explaining that she was nearsighted (before laser surgery) and didn’t feel she was particularly attractive. But the personnel director’s questions prompted her to reconsider. “Maybe I should give it a try,” she thought. When the company launched a recruitment drive for flight attendants, she signed up.

In 1993 Zhan formally became a stewardess for the airline. Back then, the company was focused on domestic flights. Although many think that domestic routes are easier, she points out that in Taiwan these flights used to offer hot meals, so making all the required safety announcements and serving the meals in the little time available proved quite a challenge. Poor weather or turbulence would only raise the level of difficulty.

“It was like being buffeted by one big wave after another,” Zhan recalls. “We had to keep our own balance and maintain a steady pace with routine cabin services, while also trying constantly to comfort distressed passengers.”

Better late than never

A “natural” as flight attendant, Kris Zhan, due to her outstanding performance, was promoted from flight attendant to in-flight services manager. Because of her excellent performance, she was repeatedly assigned to high-profile flights, such as working the first cross-strait charter flight on Chinese New Year’s in 2005.

As in-flight services manager, she had more opportunities to interact with the pilot and copilot at the front of the plane. She developed an interest in the plane’s instrument panels and would often ask the aircrew about how the plane was operated.

Eventually, a Canadian pilot encouraged her to consider a career change: “If you are so interested, why don’t you learn how to fly yourself?” Zhan recalls him asking. “I had thought I was too old [she was nearing 40], but he said, ‘It’s never too late to get started!’”

On her 40th birthday, she made a wish to become a pilot. After obtaining the understanding of her husband and family, she temporarily gave up a paycheck and in June of 2007 forked over NT$2 million of her own money to enroll at Hillsboro Aviation’s flight school in Oregon.

Although she was older than most of her fellow students, her many years of experience as a flight attendant allowed her to grasp more quickly the nuances of communicating with the tower and the complexities of cabin operations. After two years, Zhan obtained her pilot’s license. When her husband came to the US to visit her, she personally flew him to get a steak at a restaurant attached to another airport. It surprised and delighted her husband, who could hardly believe that his fine-featured better half could pull off such a feat!

More attentive to detail

Upon returning to Taiwan, Zhan passed related training courses and licensing exams and formally became a member of Trans­Asia’s pilot corps at the end of 2009.

Yet gender stereotypes have persisted, and many still feel that the skills and reactions of female pilots are inferior to those of men. Zhan points out that jets these days are mostly on autopilot, flying a set route at a set speed, so there should be very little difference between male and female performance.

“On the other hand, women are more attentive to detail than men,” she argues.

When comparing her various experiences in the workplace, Zhan says that her work as a pilot has naturally given her the greatest sense of accomplishment. She recalls once flying a plane whose passengers included a group of military officers from Latin America who were going to Hua­lien as tourists.

“The Hua­lien Airport is squeezed between the mountains and the sea, making take-off and landing very difficult. But that landing was very smooth,” she recalls with a smile. “After deplaning, those officers stood on the tarmac within eyeshot of the cockpit and gave me the thumbs-up! It ­really made me feel good!”

The next time you have a chance to take a Trans­Asia flight, check to see if your pilot is Kris Zhan or another woman. Their skills are solid, and their performance well deserving of kudos.

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