Article from the Sun daily by Rachel Law (posted on 27 April 2015)
UPON completing her A-Level programme, Elysia Mun Mei Quan was convinced that toiling seven years in medical school (as initially planned) is a pursuit that would surely dampen her free spirit within. So the Sunway University alumni registered herself at the Malaysian Flying Academy in Malacca – after researching and speaking to industry players of course.
"I'm the kind of person who can't stand staying at one place for too long so another reason flying attracted me was the short study period of a year and a half, compared to the average three to four years spent in university," laughed Mun, who spent her teens in Port Dickson.
Instinctive as her choice may had been, piloting isn't always smooth sailing. Manoeuvring an aircraft in the equatorial region meant having to navigate through thunderstorms and strong winds from time to time. The Firefly co-pilot also admitted her working schedule is a double-edged sword, one with flexible working hours but limits you from advanced holiday planning.
Nonetheless, these minor setbacks clearly have nothing on her zeal as the 26-year-old would proudly breeze into her fourth year in aviation this August. "It's really fun because every day is different. Every day you go to a different place and there's always something new to learn. There's always something you haven't encountered before," shared the Kuala Lumpur lass.
Please enlighten us: are female pilots hard to find in Malaysia?
Ten years ago, yes. It's more common now; I have a lot of friends in AirAsia and Firefly. Aviation schools and airlines don't discriminate nor do they have some sort of gender quota – they recruit as you are qualified.
Any unpleasant comments so far?
I've had one or two people from a much older generation saying, "Don't you want to stay at home?" Or "Don't you want to be a housewife?" But comments like that are very rare. I guess in anything you do there are people who'd question your choices.
What are the most common misconceptions about being a pilot?
That we don't do much. Yes, the autopilot helps but there are a lot of things you need to constantly monitor and that takes up most of your energy. Firefly flights are usually an hour long so we have to cram everything within the time frame. Secondly, people always ask when I am going to be a pilot. There's no such thing because captains and co-pilots have the same licence and we do the same kind of work. The only difference is captains are commanders of flights; they sit on the left and co-pilots on the right. For Firefly, you'd have to clock 3,000 flying hours then go for an interview and flight exams before you're promoted as captain.
How do you spend your off days?
I can spend the whole day listening to music. I grew up learning classical piano and I play the guitar as well. Music is a big passion of mine but I work better as an individual when it comes to music so it's more of a hobby for me. I also read a lot – novels, self-help and quite a wide variety. I recently finished The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold. She's a very good writer. I would recommend it to anyone who loves reading.
Did you jump on the Fifty Shades of Grey bandwagon?
I was very curious because everyone was talking about it and I went to the bookstore to check it out. After reading a few pages, I figured it's not for me.
Where's your dream holiday destination?
Switzerland. I've been there once with my family when I was 11 and I wish to go again, maybe in a few years. The view of the Swiss Alps was quite breathtaking.