Aviation for Women

JUL-AUG 2018

Aviation for Women is the flagship member publication of Women in Aviation International. Articles feature women who have made aviation history, professional development ideas, and current-topic articles.

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40 AviationforWomen J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 8 Find Strength in Your Passion "Girls can't be pilots." "You are not pretty enough. You really need to focus on your domestic skills to find a husband." "Your family is too poor and will not support a girl to study in the U.S." These are some of the messages I heard growing up in a traditional Chinese family in rural China and later when we moved to Uruguay. When I was 4 years old, while playing in the fields in rural Qinggang, China, I saw an airplane fly overhead for the first time. I was instantly en- amored. I ran back home and told my father that I wanted to be in the sky. He instructed me not to say silly things and told me that girls couldn't be pilots. I didn't know what a pilot or an airplane was, but I knew back then that I would be in the sky with that unknown object. My family, who is traditional Chinese, did not allow me to even think about flying an airplane while growing up. As a child and teenager, I was told that I only needed to learn good domes- tic skills and take care of my looks in order to find a good husband to take care of me. Some of my family didn't think I was pretty enough and strongly emphasized the need for me to focus on my domestic skills. However, I could not buy into that idea, especially, after my father passed away, when I was 8 years old, and I saw my mother's struggles as a single mother of two. At the time, the social norms of Chinese com- munities, even outside China, was to provide all the resources and support to the sons while the daughters had to help at home and prepare to be married out. Concurrently, both the sons and daughters had to be obedient and care for their parents when they became elderly. Even though I felt that these traditions were unfair, I also felt that it was important to respect my mother's val- ues and avoid bringing her shame in her com- munity. At the same time, I couldn't perpetuate these inequalities. Therefore, I wanted to show by example to other girls and young women that I could be self-sufficient and independent and choose my own path in life while honoring my family obligations. That search for balance be- tween cultural traditions and personal aspira- tions taught me how to view things from other people's perspectives and values, especially those that I could not agree with. It also helped me un- derstand my own reactions and attitudes and the effects my actions have on others. Throughout the years, I kept the secret of wanting to fly in my heart while I planned for a way to fulfill my dream of becoming a pilot. My family was poor, which translated into a lower social status in the Chinese community in Uru- guay. Besides the few days we didn't have food on the table, I always saw it as a blessing because I didn't have many of the social pressures that the other Chinese girls and women had. Other Chi- nese families didn't see us as equals, so I wasn't held to the same standards and wasn't seen as a potential bride for their sons. When I was 14 years old my older brother was graduating from high school, and he asked my extended family to help him travel to the U.S. for college. They said no. Since I wanted to go to the U.S. for college, I knew I had four years to figure out how to do what seemed to be impossible back then—navigate through a difficult admissions process and support myself in a new country where I barely spoke the language. I really didn't know anything about the U.S., but I knew it was the place I could fly. Through lots of hard work and some luck, I came to the U.S. and graduat- ed from college. I remembered how devastated my brother was when he wasn't supported in his dreams, so I took the approach that I would al- ways help others. I spent several years helping my brother, other family members, and people I met to pursue their dreams. Once my brother was successful and I had provided my mother with fi- nancial stability, I finally started flight training. I did not have any family or friends who were pi- lots, but as soon as I entered the aviation indus- try, I found this amazing network of support that I have not seen in other fields. I found my home in aviation, not only because of my passion for fly- ing, but also through the shared common val- ue of helping each other unconditionally. It was through this community of support that I was fi- nally able to pursue my dream of becoming a pi- lot. While my path might not have been straight forward, it has been a long and rewarding journey since I first saw that plane in the sky as a child. ✈ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tan Hao, WAI 70689, is a captain for Envoy Air and was an enthusiastic volunteer at WAI2018. "Don't let others put you down. Always see it as an opportunity to become stronger." I N T E R N A T I O N A L F O C U S T A N H A O

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