Mayra Florencio, Cebu Pacific Air

Mayra Florencio, Cebu Pacific Air

You really just have to put your heart into it and devote enough time.

Studying and learning never stops for pilots, even if you are already flying for the airlines. Technology is also constantly evolving as well as safety and emergency procedures.

To pursue a career in Aviation as a woman, you need to focus on the task at hand, focus on improving and honing your skills. It’s a lot more about self discipline than your gender. Your being female does not have anything to do with that. Being female is never an excuse not to excel in whatever field you choose to be in nor a hindrance to going after your dreams.

I am currently a line captain and also a line check Pilot for the a330 aircraft.

I mostly fly international routes and a couple of domestic destinations like Davao and Cebu. Schedule can be physically demanding but I am on a “6/2 roster”, meaning I work for six weeks straight, then get two weeks or 14 consecutive days off from work regularly.

Before the quarantine we usually do around 60 to 90 hours of flight time.

We would fly short- and long-haul international routes to cities in Japan, China, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia and Dubai.

Days off in between flight duties are usually short. I get up to two days — just enough to rest and recharge, or recover from jetlag. On my two-week breaks, I always travel. I go to either leisure trips, or to join a wellness retreat for things like detox, yoga or pilates. On my training months, I use my days off to study.

I’ve had so many fond memories throughout my flight career.

To me, every safe landing is a milestone. Every layover is an unforgettable adventure and every set of different crew that I’ve flown with is a different experience each time.

Gender has got nothing to do with being a pilot.

We all went through the same training and assessments. I started with a four-year course in flying. I finished my Bachelor of Science in Civil Aviation and graduated cum laude with a commercial pilot license. I was a ground instructor for my alma mater for one semester then started flying in general aviation.

I started with an apprenticeship with Air Ads as a First Officer on a BN Islander aircraft, then joined Soriano Aviation as a First Officer on the King Air 200 flying guests to and from Amanpulo, after that I flew cargo flights on the YS11 for Aboitiz Air, before joining Cebu Pacific as a First Officer on the DC 9 in 2004.

For example, although it sounds so glamorous, flying to a luxury resort like Amanpulo felt more of a job to me than anything else because I’m more focused on the overall safety of the flight. We had at most three flights per day. On rare occasions we’d go up to four flights then stay overnight in the island and fly back to Manila early the next day. I enjoyed flying into Amanpulo because it can be very challenging when strong crosswinds occur and there’s just a single landing strip on an island surrounded by water. Landing at night can be even more tricky due to the blackhole effect.

We flew a maximum of 12 passengers per flight who are mostly VIPs and famous people, but we really have very little interaction with them. Apart from the fact that it can be very busy for us in the flight deck, I think the very reason why these guests love Amanpulo is that the resort can assure them the privacy that they need. As much as we would like to have a photo with them or an autograph, we understand and respect their desire for privacy.

Another memory stands out. In 2017, my mom was diagnosed with Miller Fisher syndrome, a rare, acquired nerve disease that is considered to be a variant of Guillain-Barré syndrome. It was a very trying time for me because it had already been a week and the doctors still can’t come up with a diagnosis. My mom had always been our source of strength and to see her very ill and at her weakest in a hospital bed and still not knowing what she is battling with was really hard for me to take. Two days before my birthday, with my mom still in the hospital, I was assigned a domestic flight. After landing, and after all the passengers have disembarked, the lead cabin crew went inside the flight deck and handed me a small pouch and told me one of the passengers told her to give it to me. When I opened it, it was a necklace of the Black Nazarene. The passenger happens to be a nun. The next day it was my turn to stay with my mom in the hospital, I gave her the necklace and then the next day the doctors found out what was ailing her and told us that she’s lucky because there is a cure for it. She was out of the hospital after two weeks. It could have been a coincidence, maybe not the kind of “fond memory” you are expecting but for me it will certainly be hard to forget.

It’s sad to see rows of aircrafts parked on airport ramps and closed runways.

We were on a flight going back to Manila from Dubai on the day that the Philippines’ capital was put on Enhanced Community Quarantine. Since the lockdown I have just been flying cargo flights to select short-haul international routes, flying two to three times a month.

I have always been optimistic that the aviation industry will recover.

While this is by far the worst situation I have seen and experienced because it impacted aviation around the world, I have also observed that it’s just part of a cycle. The industry seems to always survive any crisis the universe throws at it. This is just one of those times.

On a personal note, I enjoyed the stillness during quarantine.

I’ve mostly lived on my own, so it wasn’t something new or dreadful to me. I got to do things I had no time for in the past, when the schedule and my days are mostly occupied by work.

I was finally able to read the pile of books I bought from airport terminals and bookshops while on layovers. I was able to practice meditation and yoga. I organized my flat, watched Netflix and Amazon Prime. I also kept studying our training modules because we still have exams to complete and pass.

Additional and stricter protocols are expected as airports and countries continue to reopen.

I think the people who were stuck in their homes are already eager to travel. Of course it will take time for passenger flights to pick up, but there are just too many wonderful places in the world to explore and experience.

Personally, my go-to would be Koh Samui for wellness retreats. For local destinations, I like Palawan and Bohol.

We have always emphasised at cebu Pacific air that safety is priority.

Safety of each passenger, the aircraft, the entire crew, the ground staff, the entire flight. We have been trained and we have procedures that address that. Their cooperation, following simple instructions in flight, self discipline and being considerate of other passengers are always very much appreciated and helps greatly for a safe flight.

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