It’s never too late to start

By Li Jingjing Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/3 19:38:39

First Chinese female pilot completes solo world flight


Inset: Wang Zheng Photo: Courtesy of Wang Zheng

Inset: Wang Zheng Photo: Courtesy of Wang Zheng

View from the solo flight of Wang Zheng Photo: Courtesy of Wang Zheng

View from the solo flight of Wang Zheng Photo: Courtesy of Wang Zheng



Abandoning 17 years of experience in advertising to pursue a far-fetched dream of becoming a pilot at the age of 38 probably sounds like a crazy idea. But Wang Zheng not only realized her dream, but also achieved an impressive landmark by finishing a solo flight around the world recently, becoming the first Chinese citizen and ninth woman in the world to accomplish the feat.

When she landed at Addison Airport in Dallas on September 19, she had completed 18 days of flying, crossing over two oceans and 11 countries and regions with the Cirrus SR-22 single piston-engine propeller plane, and stopping at places including California, Hawaii, Guam, Marshall Islands, the Philippines, Hainan Province in China, India, UAE, Malta and Portugal.

Up to now, there have been only 118 known solo flights worldwide, according to the data on earthrounders.com. Among them only nine are done by women. Wang is the first Asian woman to join the ranks.

At the ongoing China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, Wang was honored as the first Chinese female pilot to accomplish solo world flight by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association in China on November 1.

Career boost

44-year-old Wang grew up in Dalian, Liaoning Province and worked for years in advertising in Beijing. But that experience couldn't give her confidence she would be able to find a job in another culture when she decided to move to the US with her husband in 2010.

But she got closer to realizing the dream of becoming a pilot in a country with advanced aviation industry. She soon started to learn from scratch and get a license for being a pilot.

But her decision was much more than just an impulse. From licensed pilot to flight instructor to the first Chinese to fly solo around the world, she achieved all of it in just five years.

"There are many licensed pilots in the US, but only 26% can walk to the top of this pyramid and become professional pilots," Wang said. 

"It's like igniting the passion once again, and I just enjoy the flying happily," Wang told the Global Times. She hoped this challenging trip will  serve as a boost for her career, which was another reason she turned to aviation.

A solo flight around the world is quite a challenge not only for the comprehensive skills of the pilot, who has to take care of everything that occurs during the flight, but also for the body, since sometimes it requires flying for long hours.

Most solo flyers choose to fly eastward, but Wang chose to head west and "chase the sun." But most of the time, she flew over the oceans. The longest flight she had was for nearly 14 hours from California to Honolulu.

Training conditions

"They (pilots) are more down-to-earth in the US," Wang said, and felt many Chinese who wish to become a pilot are quite impetuous.

She said more people have started to learn flying an aircraft in recent years or try to accomplish solo flights, but some of them pay more attention to looking cool rather than putting more efforts on improving skills. They hire co-pilots or do media promotion before departure to get attention.

"Professional pilots have greater responsibilities; it's also a great challenge physically," she said. "One must put aside the halo of being a pilot and make sincere efforts."

Noticing that many Chinese go to the US, which has a better learning environment and developed aviation industry, to get trained but face difficulties because of language barriers, Wang started teaching Chinese students, and hopes to help more Chinese to get better training.

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