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Fiji Airways Pilot And Mother: Petrina Simpson

In a world where things are always changing, never stop dreaming, don’t be afraid to ask yourself “what’s next?”
09 May 2020 15:50
Fiji Airways Pilot And Mother: Petrina Simpson
Petrina in her time in a Boeing 737 cockpit.

The airline pilot profession used to be a traditional male dominated field but now it’s been broken with female pilots around the world.

Meet Petrina Simpson.

She is a pilot at Fiji Airways.

Fiji Airways is now a Skytrax 4-Star airline.

Fiji Airways also boasts the Best Airline Staff in the Australia-Pacific region, and rank in the Top 20 Best Cabin Crew in the world, well ahead of larger airlines operating in our region.

Below is an excerpt of an interview with Mrs Simpson:

Tell us a bit about your background?

My name is Petrina Simpson (maiden name Yee). I’m married to my high school sweetheart from Taveuni. We have one son.

My father is ethnically Chinese, born in Suva. His parents and grandparents came from China.

My mother is from Natavea Village in Naitasiri (vasu i Sawana, Vanua Balavu).

I spent the first few years of my life in Namuka-i-Lau Village, Veisari, before we moved to Lautoka and lived there until 2014.

I now reside in Nadi.

When did you start your training to become a pilot?

I started late… a couple of years after high school in the early 2000’s.

What attracted you to this career?

As a little girl, I remember always running to the roof top at Nadi International Airport to watch the jets take off and land.

They fascinated me.

I would look out to the horizon after a plane had flown beyond sight and wonder what was out there in the world, and what it must be like to be up in the skies in control of an incredible machine… so I had to find out.

What are some of your ambitions?

My goals keep changing.

It’s always a question of “what’s next?”.

Back when I was an ATR First Officer, I really loved that aircraft. The logical next step was to become an ATR captain.

But as a little girl, I used to always tell myself I was going to be a Boeing pilot.

So my desire to become an ATR Captain was pushed aside so that I could work towards that little girl’s dream.

When I progressed to the Boeing 737, I thought that that was it. I had made it.

And it was a great machine.

The robustness, reliability and performance of the aircraft was like none I’d flown before.

But after a few years I was again “faced” with the question, “what’s next?”.

I knew then that I had to pilot a wide-body aircraft.

This is where I am now, in training as I transition to flying the Airbus A330.

I’m privileged to be in an industry with good opportunities for career progression, and blessed to have a supportive employer in Fiji Airways that makes it all possible.

In a world where things are always changing, never stop dreaming, don’t be afraid to ask yourself “what’s next?”

How do you manage the demands of professional and personal commitments?

The truth is, that behind my success is a village of support.

I’m just so blessed that I have a very understanding and supportive family.

Having to occasionally miss out on family functions or my son’s school events can be quite difficult.

But on the other hand the job affords me a good amount of downtime at home which we as a family try to make the most of.

Has your professional background in any way shaped your role as a mother?

Pilots are trained to manage a diverse range of situations, whether they involve crew, passengers, or engines.

Being a mother isn’t very different in principle.

It’s all about managing situations that arise, plotting a good course for your child, guiding them along their journey, and making sure they don’t go off course.

And just as in the cockpit, I have a copilot at home and we work together to raise our child in the best way that we can.

I can’t say I’m a perfect mother – far from it – but like any mother, I do my best.

What are the challenges and opportunities of being a female pilot?

Thankfully times have changed and even though aviation is still a male-dominated field, I’m lucky to have colleagues around me who are professional and supportive.

The biggest challenge is not being able to “switch off” after work.

Upon shutting down the engines and securing the plane, I have to switch into “mum mode” and start figuring out what needs to be done at home.

But I suppose this is the story for all working mums.

As for opportunities, I get to travel the world, meet different people, and learn about different cultures.

There’s also the chance to continuously learn new things from jet engines to weather patterns, from constellations to geography.

I love the fact that when I go to work there’s always something new to look forward to.

Not a single sunrise or sunset is the same, and to have the opportunity to view them from over 30,000 feet is nothing short of amazing.

Less than five per cent of airline pilots worldwide are women. Why do you think this might be the case, and do you think the situation is changing?

I know for a fact that there is equality of opportunity in the Fijian aviation industry, so I can only assume that the reason for the low participation of women is the slow rate at which society accepts new gender roles.

The high cost of pilot training could also factor into this, where parents might be reluctant to invest in their daughters’ education in a male dominated field.

However, I definitely think the situation is changing for the better, and there are many more women in the Fijian aviation industry now than there were when I joined.

What does the industry need to do to attract more women to this profession?

Work with schools to show girls that aviation is a valid and rewarding career option.

Telling the stories of female pilots and giving young girls something they can relate and aspire to also helps change mindsets.

What is your advice to young females who are planning to pursue a career in aviation?

The path to success in aviation isn’t easy.

There is no success without failure.

But failures and setbacks do not define you, they are an opportunity to learn.

Use whatever comes your way constructively, learn from it, and never give up.

Hobbies?

Traveling and hiking in different countries around the world with my husband and my son.

I love driving up to the highlands, to enjoy the serenity and the freshness of the air.

Fiji is a beautiful place if you take the time to explore.

And of course I love family time and having a good laugh with the kids.

What would be your Mother’s Day message?

There is no role in life that is more essential.

This Mother’s Day, we celebrate the amazing mum you are, and the dedication and effort with which you raise your children.

Thank you for loving your children unselfishly.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing mums out there.

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