High-flying women take to the skies with SriLankan Airlines

Travel News Asia Tuesday, 12 December 2006

While most women in Sri Lanka opt to find employment in their academic background, two women with high academic qualifications recently received their wings as junior first officers from the national carrier, SriLankan Airlines, making them the second and third female pilots ever in the history of Sri Lanka.

Ms. Chamika Rupasinghe, a Graduate of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura and a final year Chartered Institute of Management (CIMA) student, recalls being laughed at when she was about ten years old, for her ambition to fly.

Ms Rupasinghe joined the SriLankan Airlines family back in February 2000 as an air stewardess, hoping to one day pursue her dream.

Ms. Roshani Jinasena meanwhile, has a BSc Honours in Business Management from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom.

Having obtained her private pilots licence at 17 while awaiting her O-Level results, Ms. Jinasena said she then knew that flying a commercial airliner was to be her future.

Both women said they had to overcome a number of hurdles, starting at home, in convincing their parents to let them pursue their ambition.

A considerable number of parents view aviation as a full-time vocation that would interfere in the family life of a young woman.

Other challenges include acceptance among male peers, learning the entire technical aspect of aviation and the quick analytical judgement required of a pilot.

While the profession is not for the faint-hearted, the two women pilots said that it is a great feeling to be flying above the clouds.

SriLankan Airlines Chief Pilot A320 Navin de Silva said, It is encouraging to note that women with very high academic qualifications are choosing to be pilots when they have a myriad of other less demanding options.

We are hopeful that more women will consider becoming pilots and even more parents would better understand the vocation.

A team of 203 local and expatriate pilots currently fly SriLankan Airlines all Airbus fleet.

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