By Mel Sim
We’ve all been told to aim for the sky. For Nazneem Hashim, that is literally what she did when she decided that she wanted to embark on a career as a helicopter pilot. Says the senior first officer with Awan Inspirasi in Miri, Sarawak, “The sky has always been an attractive concept to me so I knew I wanted to fly.”
At first, the plucky Nazneem wanted to become an airplane pilot (“It was after all the part of aviation I was exposed to,” she explains) but after doing a little bit of research, she soon discovered that flying helicopters would be lucrative as a career. “It also allowed me to follow my passion of flying,” says Nazneem. Hands down, a win-win situation! But passion itself is not enough to soar in this industry, claims Nazneem. It is not just about learning the ropes of flying but certain personal characteristics need to be in place for one to do well. “The key quality of any budding pilot should be perseverance,” says Nazneem. “There were times where I may have doubted myself but I gained confidence through constant practice and persisted regardless of my self-doubt.”
“There were times where I may have doubted myself but I gained confidence through constant practice and persisted regardless of my self-doubt.”
The helicopter pilot also credits humility as a big part of her development. “I accepted constructive criticism from my superiors with an open mind, to ensure I was growing my skills to its maximum potential. Eagerness to learn is crucial,” she says.
A job that takes one up to the sky is definitely something out of the ordinary. When asked what makes her job interesting, Nazneem’s answer makes us all green in the eye. “The most obvious attraction is having a personal view of the sky; it is incomparable to any office,” she says. “This is followed by the adrenaline rush of landing, often on oil platforms and moving ships. Another interesting part of the job is the international aspect of flying. I appreciate flying with various people from different backgrounds, cultures and environments.”
But like any other job, being a helicopter pilot is not always a high. Nazneem says it comes with challenging times. “I started flying offshore at the early age of 21. In the male-dominated industry of aviation, being a young female pilot was definitely a challenge for me. There have been times where I personally hear doubts and judgment from others regarding my flying abilities due to my youthful appearance,” she says. However, after five years of flying offshore, Nazneem says that she has worked hard enough to prove her capabilities and minimise these doubters.
There were also sacrifices that Nazneem needed to make to prove herself. “I left my home for a completely new and foreign environment. I had to learn to be self-sufficient and adapt without the support of those familiar faces. This was a difficult process but is responsible for developing me into a stronger person,” she says.
Nazneem’s experience as a helicopter pilot has also taught her how to think on her feet. “There have been the occasional malfunctions of the aircraft where I had to think on my feet to rectify the issues. These resolutions included unplanned returns to base, diverting to different airports and even staying overnight on oilrigs. Although malfunctions are definitely unsettling, they’ve increased my confidence and resilience,” says Nazneem.
Sounds like a job you are interested in? Nazneem has this to share about what it takes to really make it in her line: “To succeed, you have to persist through the challenges and doubts that would inevitably come your way. You have to stick to it and not give up. No pun intended but you really need to reach for the sky,” she concludes.
IF YOU WERE NOT A HELICOPTER PILOT, YOU WOULD HAVE BEEN...
“Probably involved in the health and fitness industry. I have always been passionate about keeping active and maintaining a balanced lifestyle.”