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Thai women pilots

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22 years after the first Thai woman co-pilot still only 30 to 40 female pilots (none at Thai Airways) & only 4 full pilots. 

female pilot

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Aviation

Sky-high sisterhood

Kanchala Campos-Tortosa flies in the rarefied air of Thai female pilots
19/03/2012
Boonsong Kositchotethana, Deputy Editor Business

PG 924 from Suvarnabhumi airport to Phuket could have been just another flight if not for the pleasant but firm female voice emanating from the cockpit of the A319 jetliner.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. On behalf of Bangkok Airways and my crew, I would like to welcome you on board," it announced as the aircraft with 100 or so passengers, mostly foreign holidaymakers, prepared for take-off.

Meet Kanchala Campos-Tortosa, 49, one of a handful of female pilots working in Thailand's male-dominated airline industry.

If Thai female pilots flying commercial airliners are rare - numbering between 30 and 40 - it is rarer still for them to achieve the rank of full-fledged captain like Captain Kanchala (merely four). 

Those numbers are tiny for a country celebrating its 101st anniversary in aviation this year and a nation with a thriving airline business and strategic position as the region's air hub.

Industry experts estimate that there are 4,000 Thai nationals working as cockpit staff for Thai and foreign airlines.

Clearly the cockpit is not the place most Thai women prefer in the aircraft cabin, judging from the tens of thousands already working for Thai and international carriers.

It has also been the case that airlines are always overwhelmed with applications whenever vacancies open for cabin attendants. It is common to see an airline flooded with thousands of applications when 40-60 positions are available.

For most young Thai women, being an air hostess, as they prefer to be called here, is a dream job with social status, relatively good pay and a chance to see the world.
 
Only two scheduled airlines in Thailand, Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia (TAA), have female pilots working, while Thai Airways International, the flag carrier and the country's largest airline, has been strictly a male club throughout its 51 years of existence.

The last count for women working at the no-frills TAA found 17 in the cockpit, all co-pilots - a small minority of the 261 flying A320 jets there.

One of TAA's female co-pilots is Chananporn "Nod" Rosjan, who was crowned Miss Thailand Universe in 2005.

There are 14 [women working in the cockpit] at Bangkok Airways, with three of them bestowed the rank of captain, recognisable by the four golden stripes on their shoulders and their sitting in the left seat of the cockpit. Combined cockpit staff at the airline numbers 176.

It has been only in the past six or seven years that Thai airlines began to see more female entrants in the piloting ranks but still at a negligible rate - not more than five a year, said Capt Kanchala, who was licensed as Thailand's first female co-pilot 22 years ago.

"There is a slow but insignificant trend of women moving into the cockpits," said Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, the president of Bangkok Airways, the privately held airline that was the first to open the door to Thai female pilots more than two decades ago.

He said piloting aircraft is simply not a popular career among Thai women, who prefer the less stressful duties in the back of the aircraft.

"I don't see any handicaps that may restrict women from flying commercial airliners as long as they are trained and qualified," said Capt Puttipong.

Capt Kanchala, who became Thailand's second female pilot to earn the rank of captain after clocking 3,000 flight hours, said many Thai women tend to think the opportunity to become a pilot is not open to them.

"Thai women are capable of doing things, and we're seeing more and more of them becoming leaders and chief executives of organisations," she told the Bangkok Post.

"I believe many Thai women would love to fly like me and turn their dreams into reality," said Capt Kanchala, who is also a pilot instructor at Bangkok Airways.

Both Capt Kanchala and Capt Puttipong agree some other established Thai airlines unofficially prefer to hire only male pilots, as their organisational cultures were built that way.

Those airlines would argue that the supply of male pilots in the country remains plentiful, and men are easier to manage without subjecting them to feminine sensitivities.

Capt Kanchala disagrees, pointing to the gender discrimination that still exists in some airlines' management, particularly concerning maternity leave.

"A female pilot is entitled to 12 months of maternity leave, and that is seen as a drawback," said the mother of an 8-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy.

Bangkok Airways does not prohibit female cockpit staff getting married or pregnant. The airline's president recognises that certain senior male pilots, who control the pilot rosters at Thai airlines, are still uncomfortable having their men work under a female captain - part of a Thai cultural complex that promotes masculine superiority.

Capt Kanchala says she gets different looks when wearing her uniform.

"Some look at me admirably, some enviably, but some with a doubtful look questioning the competency of a woman to be a full-fledged captain," she said.

She remembers vividly when she walked past some male captains of a major Thai airline who gave her ugly looks.

"I was not angry, but I was aware that it was the stereotype reaction from a society that put men in front of women," she said, although that is changing now.

Capt Kanchala has been obsessed with flying since graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In addition to the A319 jet, she can command the propeller-driven Dash 8 and ATR 72.

Aircraft were not designed exclusively for men, nor for females with "tomboy" traits, but for anyone trained and certified capable of handling them, she insisted, referring to a misconception that seems to persist worldwide.

Capt Puttipong said in addition to bestowing social status, working as a pilot for a Thai commercial airline can be financially rewarding, with a monthly salary of 160,000 to 200,000 baht.

(Source: Bangkok Post, Aviation, Sky-high sisterhood, Kanchala Campos-Tortosa flies in the rarefied air of Thai female pilots, 19/03/2012, Boonsong Kositchotethana, Deputy Editor Business, link

Aviation Vocabulary

aviation - science of flying aircraft ศิลปและศาสตร์ในการบิน the flying of aircraft การบิน (See Wikipedia)

pilot - the person in charge of flying an aircraft นักบิน, เจ้าหน้าที่ขับเครื่องบิน (See Wikipedia)
female - of a woman สำหรับผู้หญิง
female pilots - (See history at Wikipedia)
co-pilot - the assistant pilot of an aircraft who helps the pilot and takes over if there is a problem (See Wiktionary)

cockpit - enclosed space for a pilot in an airplane ที่นั่งคนขับ
aircraft cabin - the area where passengers sit in an aircraft ห้องคนโดยสารในเครื่องบิน
cabin - Same as "aircraft cabin"

staff - employees of a company, people who work for a company พนักงาน
cockpit staff

cabin attendants -
workers on an airplane who ensure the safety and comfort of passengers aboard flights & serve the food & sell duty-free items (See Wikipedia)
air hostess - Same as "cabin attendant"

crew - the people who work on a ship, aircraft, etc. ลูกเรือ
take-off - when the plane leaves the ground and starts flying

board - to get onto a ship, aircraft, train, or bus ขึ้น(เรือ รถเมล์ รถไฟ เครื่องบิน)
on
board - in the aircraft

sisterhood - women working together to protect their rights, fight discrimination and improve their position in the world
sky-high sisterhood

rarefied air - when there is very little air (far up in the air, where airplanes fly)

Kanchala Campos-Tortosa flies in the rarefied air of Thai female pilots

just another flight - a flight like any other flight (nothing special)
firm - strong
firm female voice - a woman with a strong voice speaking
emanating -
coming out of
pleasant but firm female voice emanating from the cockpit

PG 924 from Suvarnabhumi airport to Phuket could have been just another flight if not for the pleasant but firm female voice emanating from the cockpit of the A319 jetliner.

foreign holidaymakers - tourists from other countries (not Thais)

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. On behalf of Bangkok Airways and my crew, I would like to welcome you on board," it announced as the aircraft with 100 or so passengers, mostly foreign holidaymakers, prepared for take-off.

handful - a small number (could fit in your hand)  จำนวนน้อย จำนวนน้อยมาก
only a handful of female pilots
dominated - controlled ถูกควบคุม ถูกชักใย บงการ
male-dominated - controlled by men
male-dominated airline industry

Meet Kanchala Campos-Tortosa, 49, one of a handful of female pilots working in Thailand's male-dominated airline industry.

commercial - for business purposes
commercial airliners
rare - not happening very often หาได้ยาก เกิดขึ้นได้ยาก  ซึ่งหายาก
rank - the position or level that an employee has in an organisation; official position in the armed forces, police, fire services, etc. ตำแหน่ง
rank of full-fledged captain

If Thai female pilots flying commercial airliners are rare - numbering between 30 and 40 - it is rarer still for them to achieve the rank of full-fledged captain like Captain Kanchala (merely four). 

celebrate - having a party or special event
anniversary - a date when you celebrate something that happened in a previous year that is important to you วันครบรอบ
thriving - very successful ประสบความสำเร็จอย่างสูง
thriving airline business - a very profitable and successful airline business
hub - the central or main part of something where there is most activity จุดศูนย์กลาง
air hub - a central place where airplanes land and take off
the region's air hub
strategic - done with a special plan to achieve long term goals
strategic position
strategic position as the region's air hub

Those numbers are tiny for a country celebrating its 101st anniversary in aviation this year and a nation with a thriving airline business and strategic position as the region's air hub.

estimate - guess an amount (not exact); to say what you think an amount or value is or will be, either by using available information or by guessing คาดคะเน  โดยประมาณ

Industry experts estimate that there are 4,000 Thai nationals working as cockpit staff for Thai and foreign airlines.

carriers
- airline companies
international - ระหว่างประเทศ between countries
international carriers

Clearly the cockpit is not the place most Thai women prefer in the aircraft cabin, judging from the tens of thousands already working for Thai and international carriers.

job applications
overwhelmed - have too much of something
overwhelmed with applications - have too much applications
common to see
flooded with thousands of applications

It has also been the case that airlines are always overwhelmed with applications whenever vacancies open for cabin attendants. It is common to see an airline flooded with thousands of applications when 40-60 positions are available.

dream job
social status - social position สถานะทางสังคม
good pay
relatively good pay
a chance to see the world

For most young Thai women, being an air hostess, as they prefer to be called here, is a dream job with social status, relatively good pay and a chance to see the world.
 
scheduled - planned to happen at a particular time or day ตามตารางเวลา
scheduled airline - an airline that has flights every week at certain times 
chartered airline -
an airline that has flights only when someone pays for a special flight
flag carrier - the official national airline of a country (often owned and subsidized by the government)
strictly - completely อย่างเข้มงวด in a very limited or limiting way; exactly or correctly
strictly a male club

Only two scheduled airlines in Thailand, Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia (TAA), have female pilots working, while Thai Airways International, the flag carrier and the country's largest airline, has been strictly a male club throughout its 51 years of existence.

frills - extra things, that are not really needed
no-frills - no extra things (such as meals or other special things like movies, etc)
minority - a small percentage, less than 50% จำนวนน้อย

The last count for women working at the no-frills TAA found 17 in the cockpit, all co-pilots - a small minority of the 261 flying A320 jets there. One of TAA's female co-pilots is Chananporn "Nod" Rosjan, who was crowned Miss Thailand Universe in 2005.

bestowed - (of something valuable or important) given มอบให้
bestowed rank of captain - given the rank or position of captain
recognisable - easy to see and recognize จำได้

There are 14 at Bangkok Airways, with three of them bestowed the rank of captain, recognisable by the four golden stripes on their shoulders and their sitting in the left seat of the cockpit. Combined cockpit staff at the airline numbers 176.

entrants - people who enter into a place or profession
negligible - very small or unimportant ซึ่งไม่สลักสำคัญ
rate - the level or speed at which something happens or changes, or the amount or number of times it happens or changes in a particular period อัตรา
at a negligible rate - very few per year
pilot's license -
special permission to fly a plane (after studying and flying a lot)
licensed -
getting special permission to do some activity
licensed as a co-pilot

It has been only in the past six or seven years that Thai airlines began to see more female entrants in the piloting ranks but still at a negligible rate - not more than five a year, said Capt Kanchala, who was licensed as Thailand's first female co-pilot 22 years ago.

insignificant - not large or important enough to be worth considering foil
trend - a gradual change or development that produces a particular result ทิศทาง แนวโน้ม
slow but insignificant trend
privately held airline -
not owned by the government (owned by stock shareholders)
decades - periods of ten years เป็นสิบๆปี

"There is a slow but insignificant trend of women moving into the cockpits," said Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, the president of Bangkok Airways, the privately held airline that was the first to open the door to Thai female pilots more than two decades ago.

career - the series of related jobs that you spend your work life doing (See Wikipedia and glossary)
popular career among Thai women
less stressful duties

He said piloting aircraft is simply not a popular career among Thai women, who prefer the less stressful duties in the back of the aircraft.

handicaps - problems that a person has that prevents them from doing things (or here getting a job done)
restrict - limit and control
X as long as Y - if Y then X
qualified -
have the necessary education, training, skills and experience to do a job

"I don't see any handicaps that may restrict women from flying commercial airliners as long as they are trained and qualified," said Capt Puttipong.

tend - to be likely to behave in a particular way or have a particular characteristic มักจะ
opportunity - a situation when it is possible to do something that you want to do (See glossary)
opportunity open to them
opportunity not open to them

Capt Kanchala, who became Thailand's second female pilot to earn the rank of captain after clocking 3,000 flight hours, said many Thai women tend to think the opportunity to become a pilot is not open to them.

capable - able to do something; very good at a job มีความสามารถ
executives - a high level manager in a company (making plans and ensuring they executed successfully) ผู้บริหาร
chief executives of organisations - the heads of organizations

"Thai women are capable of doing things, and we're seeing more and more of them becoming leaders and chief executives of organisations," she told the Bangkok Post.

reality - what actually happens ความเป็นจริง
turn their dreams into reality

"I believe many Thai women would love to fly like me and turn their dreams into reality," said Capt Kanchala, who is also a pilot instructor at Bangkok Airways.

established - be in a successful position over a long period of time มีตำแหน่งที่มั่นคง
established Thai airlines - Thai airlines that have existed for a long time 
unofficially -
this is what they do (but not an official policy announed to the public)

organisational culture -
the behaviour of all the employees of an organization, formed by the values, visions, norms, working language, systems, and symbols, includes beliefs and habits, taught to new organizational members as a way of perceiving, and even thinking and feeling,  organizational culture affect the way people and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders (See Wikipedia)

Both Capt Kanchala and Capt Puttipong agree some other established Thai airlines unofficially prefer to hire only male pilots, as their organisational cultures were built that way.

plentiful - lots available
feminine - of women, belonging to women
feminine sensitivities - the way that women typically feel about things
subjecting them to feminine sensitivities - making or forcing them to deal with the way that women typically feel about things and react to events

Those airlines would argue that the supply of male pilots in the country remains plentiful, and men are easier to manage without subjecting them to feminine sensitivities.

gender - the fact of being either male or female เพศ the differences between men and women (including biological and social) (See Wikipedia)
discrimination - the practice of treating someone or a particular group in society less fairly than others
gender discrimination - treating a person different because they are a woman or man (See Wikipedia)

leave
- time take off from work, either paid or unpaid การพักงาน a period of time when you are not working at your job, doing something else (for example, "medical leave" to receive medical treatment)
maternity leave - time that female employees are allowed to take off from their job to have a baby and look after their newborn baby (See Wikipedia)

Capt Kanchala disagrees, pointing to the gender discrimination that still exists in some airlines' management, particularly concerning maternity leave.

entitled - having the right to have or do something มีสิทธิโดยชอบ
drawback - a negative thing that makes you want something less

"A female pilot is entitled to 12 months of maternity leave, and that is seen as a drawback," said the mother of an 8-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy.

prohibit - to not allow; to ban ห้าม
pregnant - having a baby developing inside the body ท้อง ตั้งครรภ์
rosters - a list of players playing in a game or employees who will be working today
complex
- an area that has several parts
Thai cultural complex
masculine superiority

Bangkok Airways does not prohibit female cockpit staff getting married or pregnant. The airline's president recognises that certain senior male pilots, who control the pilot rosters at Thai airlines, are still uncomfortable having their men work under a female captain - part of a Thai cultural complex that promotes masculine superiority.

Capt Kanchala says she gets different looks when wearing her uniform.

"Some look at me admirably, some enviably, but some with a doubtful look questioning the competency of a woman to be a full-fledged captain," she said.

She remembers vividly when she walked past some male captains of a major Thai airline who gave her ugly looks.

aware - knowing that something exists, or having knowledge or experience of a particular thing ทราบ
reaction - the way something responds as a result of something that happens ปฏิกิริยาตอบโต้
stereotypical reaction
- the way that society expects people to react in a situation (an overgeneralization and not true)

"I was not angry, but I was aware that it was the stereotype reaction from a society that put men in front of women," she said, although that is changing now.

obsessed - considering something as so important that you are always thinking about it, in a way that seems extreme to other people หมกมุ่น
command - to control and direct something such as a ship or airplane or a group of soldiers
propeller - a device which causes a ship or aircraft to move, consisting of two or more blades which turn round at high speed ใบพัด

Capt Kanchala has been obsessed with flying since graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In addition to the A319 jet, she can command the propeller-driven Dash 8 and ATR 72.

exclusively for men - only for men
traits - characteristics that can produce a particular type of behavior ลักษณะพิเศษ
tomboy traits - the appearance and behaviour of a tomboy
certified - inspected officially and verified that something follows the rules ผ่านการรับรองคุณภาพ
insisted - say firmly that something must happen or is true, and will not change mind
misconception - false belief
persist - continue ยืดเยื้อต่อไป
a misconception that seems to persist - a false belief that continues

Aircraft were not designed exclusively for men, nor for females with "tomboy" traits, but for anyone trained and certified capable of handling them, she insisted, referring to a misconception that seems to persist worldwide.

Capt Puttipong said in addition to bestowing social status, working as a pilot for a Thai commercial airline can be financially rewarding, with a monthly salary of 160,000 to 200,000 baht.

financially rewarding - people make a lot of money from this activity 

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