The sky is the limit

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 05 May 2017, 12:00AM

Nothing is impossible when you commit yourself to a goal. Just ask two female pilots flying with Polynesian Airlines and they will tell you that.

Being in a predominantly male profession, does not faze first officers, Whitney Churchward and Fanaafi So’oa’emalelagi.

They love the challenge. For New Zealand born Ms. Churchward, she has been flying since 2012 and in her line of work; accumulating flying hours is what it’s all about.

She said she wanted to accumulate her hours in Samoa where her father, Emmanuel Churchward is from. She hails from Tuana’imato. 

 “I heard all these stories of my father’s family and growing up I knew that I had to come here,” she said.

“I wanted to come where my roots are, where my father was born and raised. While I grew up in New Zealand, I was told this is where my family is from and I’ve always wanted to come back to Samoa. 

“To work in my community, to give back to the country that my family holds dear in their hearts.... that’s why I’m here.” 

Ms. Churchward graduated from Admore Flying School in Auckland. She proceeded to retain her pilot commercial license and received it in April 2013. 

But it wasn’t an easy task. According to Ms. Churchward, there is a lot that goes into getting a license, such as theory exams and flight tests and then those hours of flying. There's a lot of sacrifices made, sweat and tears shed by the time its done. 

In 2013, she started working as a commercial pilot, and trying to “boot hours” she worked two jobs. 

She spoke of her first experience piloting an airplane. 

“It was amazing," she said. That’s when I knew right then and there, I was making the right decision."

Asked about the challenges of her profession, Churchward explained this is a man’s arena. 

“When you're a pilot in a school where the number of girls attending you can count in one hand it’s difficult. 

"However that is slowly changing. I’ve seen a lot more female training pilots over the years.” 

She said the good thing about Samoa is that they are all about family and that mentality is also shown at Polynesian Airlines. She doesn’t have a problem being in a “male dominant profession as the pilots are all family.”  

Ms. Churchward also has a message for the young girls who want to be in the skies one day. 

“Never give up on your dreams, there will be many challenges and road blocks on your journey but always stay strong. I always remind myself that life will never give you more than you can handle," she said.

“Don't let anything and anyone discourage you, work hard and stay focus, there will be plenty of failures along the way but you’ll have to experience those to really grow.”

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 05 May 2017, 12:00AM

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