Lest We Forget


Compiled by Faruq Aiman Bostaman

High flying pioneers

APRIL 21, 2007 – Women are stepping into soaring careers at 36,000 feet above sea level! Royal Brunei Airlines has opened its doors to women. Currently Brunei Darussalam proudly has five female pilots, two of whom are still in training.

Here, three of the female pilots share their experience of living their dreams, which quite literally is set on a canvas of sky and clouds.

Sariana binti Nordin

Brunei Darussalam’s premier female pilot, Sariana Nordin, aged 30, who piloted her first commercial flight in 2004, plays down talk of the glamour that lies behind her occupation. “It’s not glamorous at all! It is a really good challenge for us. We had joined this small company with smaller aircrafts. But it prepared us, a transition. As for the glamorous side of it, we do turn heads when we walk by, especially in this region. It is avoidable.”

Having always wanted to go places and now truly enjoying her career, what excites her most is the travelling. “Travelling, seeing new places and the shopping. It’s like being on vacation. People pay to go on a vacation. But we’re getting paid to go on vacation.

“You don’t need to be an Einstein to be a pilot,” says Sariana on the challenges of being a pilot. But for those who wish to pursue this as a career, she advises them that it is a career where continuous learning is crucial.

Sariana has flown the most of the destinations Royal Brunei Airlines flies to. “I can’t decide which is my favourite destination. They are all unique,” she says.

Sariana binti Nordin was the first female pilot to be recruited by RBA
Sariana binti Nordin was the first female pilot to be recruited by RBA
Dayangku Haryati binti Pengiran Haji Abdul Rais (left) and Sharifah Czarena Suriany binti Syed Haji Hashim
Dayangku Haryati binti Pengiran Haji Abdul Rais (left) and Sharifah Czarena Suriany binti Syed Haji Hashim

Dayangku Haryati binti Pengiran Haji Abdul Rais

As the youngest member of this group Haryati, aged 25, shows as much enthusiasm for being a female pilot as her passengers who hear her voice on the PA system, telling them to sit back and relax before flight. “On the way to the UK, there was this passenger who asked the cabin crew if he could meet me after the flight. He told me he’s flown with RBA before and he loved it. And he said that it’s really rare to see a female pilot in this part of the world!”

Having grown up with not as much of an opportunity to travel as most, Haryati was an eager flyer. “I didn’t get to travel a lot when I was younger. Back then, it was very expensive. I liked flying. I’d be envious of my cousins who had the opportunity to travel overseas. I thought, one of these days I’m going to go places on my own.”

Haryati, now living her dream, says: “You get to be in places where people don’t know your name. You broaden your horizons in a way.”

“There’s a lot of excitement. You face new challenges and see new things every day. You get to meet the cabin crew; they’re always very nice. An hour before work, you get ready, then you fly, then you’re somewhere else and that’s when you get to do your shopping,” Haryati says with a big smile as she describes the excitement of a flight.

Challenges faced by a female pilot are not as difficult to bear as some may think. “We are only at the end of bad jokes like: ‘Women make bad drivers, they probably make bad pilots’,” says Haryati with a laugh.

Haryati’s message to youths is: “Don’t be afraid to pursue your dream. Make your dream come true. If you want it, grab it. If you have the chance, why not just do it.”

Sharifah Czarena Suriany binti Syed Haji Hashim

At nine years of age Sharifah Czarena saw the view from the flight deck, and her dream of flying began. Czarena, aged 26, recalls: “It was a flight from Singapore to Brunei. Back then, children were allowed to go into the flight deck. I was allowed to sit in during the landing. I thought then that I wanted to fly one of these one day.”

After floating from one job to another, it was her senior that showed her that her dreams could come true. “It’s always been a dream but I’ve never really pursued it because it was a bit unheard of here in Brunei. But thank you to Sariana! Sariana was the first; she showed me that the possibility to pursue that dream was there. I read about her in the Borneo Bulletin,” she says.

The latest member of the group of female pilots for Brunei Darussalam’s national carrier, Czarena says, “It’s still considered a man’s world, and even though there are so many of us around the world, we are still in the minority, especially in this region. It’s not awkward to work with a man. They don’t treat us any differently, I don’t think.”

Asked what characteristic is most valuable to a pilot, she says: “Confidence. Because you’re not working on your own, you’re working with so many different people. You meet so many different people. You have to be quite outgoing. Especially being a female when people stereotype you as being over-emotional and difficult. Confidence plays a big role because, to be noticed we can’t just be as good as the men, we have to be better.

“It’s not just a career. It’s a lifestyle!” Czarena enthuses, adding, “You look at travel magazines and you see all the different places, the landscape. We get to be at the flight deck and that is what we see every day. We see it all the time and it’s never the same. We often get to see the sunset and sunrise in a flight. It’s amazing!” – Kartika Rahman