Captain Norashikin Onn – Pilot
For someone so reserved, Captain Norashikin Onn is full of surprises. While studying for a degree in music (she plays the piano, drums, saxophone, and flute) at Boston University, she decided to emulate aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart by signing herself up for flight training in Fort Pierce, Florida. “I took up odd-jobs to pay for my flying lessons, and when I came back home, I brought my FAA Commercial Pilot License certificates with me. My family were so shocked – they had no idea!” she smiles.
After converting her US license to a Malaysian one at Mofaz Air Academy, she became the first female pilot in the country to qualify for and receive an Airline Transport Pilot License, launching her career in commercial aviation. With 20 years’ experience in the industry firmly in her logbook, she currently pilots an Airbus 330-300 for Air Asia X flights to a myriad of destinations – one week, it’s Tokyo, and the next, Melbourne – though her previous charter flight duties have taken her further afield to Buenos Aires, Cairo, the Gambia, and Togo.
The responsibility of flying an aircraft worth millions and safely transporting 380 passengers and crew isn’t lost on Captain Norashikin. “Having a strong character is essential for a good pilot. Each flight is unique in its own nature, but I’ve never lost my cool or panicked before,” she notes. Even the hazing and know-it-all mentalities of male colleagues during her earlier years in the industry didn’t deter her: “I told them being a female pilot is methodically the same as being a female athlete or driver – that we could equal their best. If you ask me, those men were frightened we’d replace them!”
Female pilots account for just above three percent of the overall number worldwide, but at Air Asia Group – which boasts 62 female pilots – they’re pushing the throttle forward. Captain Norashikin crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the first time from Caracas to Madrid with two female co-pilots by her side, while a flight to Australia last year saw her make history by landing a wide-body aircraft at Gold Coast Airport with her female co-pilot. So, ladies, start your engines – you’re cleared for takeoff.