KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 ― Getting her pilot licence was an achievement.
But for Captain Nazneem Hashim Zahar Mohd Hashim getting a job after that was a problem as the only airline that accepted female pilots in 2009 was AirAsia.
It was also at a time when there was an influx of those with commercial fixed wing pilot licenses,
So the 31-year-old decided to go a different route - she went on to obtain her license to fly helicopters and today, she is only four local female pilots who fly people to and from oil rigs.
She has been flying for 13 years now and for Nazneem, the skies never failed to fascinate her especially.
She knew from an early age that she wanted to fly.
“For me the skies have always been an interesting concept.
“When I was eight or seven years old, I wrote in my yearbook that my dream was for everybody to fly, so eventually I realised that flying would be a good career path for me,” she told Malay Mail.
Right after finishing her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, Nazneem enrolled herself in an Australian flying school and after 18 months, she had her first commercial fixed wing pilot licence.
It was only upon returning to Malaysia that she found it difficult to get a job.
She took her father’s advice and went to another flying school in Ipoh, Perak to get her helicopter flying license.
“Flying a helicopter is much more challenging than flying an aeroplane.”
“It was a lot more challenging especially when I first started to learn how to hover the helicopter but like most things after a while, you get a hold of it and kind of become second nature,” she said.
She was the only female cadet who was sitting for a rotary wings license at the time.
After getting the license, Nazneem got a job as a co-pilot in Miri, Sarawak with an offshore helicopter service company called Awan Inspirasi.
She was retrenched six years later after the company closed down and she applied for a similar position at other offshore helicopter service companies.
Nazneem got a job a few weeks later with Hevilift (once again, she was the only female pilot).
“I joined Hevilift as a co-pilot and a senior first officer and that was in 2017 and then in December 2019, I got promoted as a captain.”
Asked about discimination because of her gender, she instead said she faced doubt from people because of her height at 157cm.
“So that was one of the challenges in my career and it made me doubt myself but as years went by I gained more confidence through constant practice and being persistent regardless of my own self doubt,” she said.
Her job depends on the flight schedules of clients.
“If drilling is going on, it could be up to five times a week but if there’s none, like right now, there are about two to three times a week,” she said adding that the Covid-19 Pandemic has resulted in offshore workers having to stay longer at the rigs.
Nazneem also said that offshore pilots weren’t affected as badly as commercial airlines pilots as most of their trips were local trips and they are not on an allowance based salary.
Throughout her career as a pilot, Nazneem has had the privilege of flying a few types of helicopters including the four-seater Robinson R44, Sikorsky S-76 which can fit up to 12 passengers and the Eurocopter Airbus 225 which can carry up to 19 passengers.
The Eurocopter Airbus 225 because of its advanced automation system and simply because “it’s an Airbus”.