Showing posts with label aviation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label aviation. Show all posts

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pacific Skies

Participants for 59th ASPA General session (Photo by Leata Alaimoana)

Last week was a stimulating week, definitely to the aviation senses! I participated in the 59th ASPA GENERAL SESSION, 5-6 December, 2013 at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel, Apia Samoa. Association of South Pacific Airlines (ASPA) was established at the directive of the South Pacific Civil Aviation Council which met in Apia on 22-23 June, 1978. The first meeting of regional airlines, held in Suva on 7-8 March 1979 formally agreed to launch the Association of South Pacific Airlines (ASPA). The inaugural meeting of ASPA took place in Suva on 30-31 May 1979, when the Articles of Association were adopted. ASPA is a trade association, representing the interests of member airlines, and is operated on a not-for-profit basis.

The main theme of this session was 'Business First, Safety Always'. There were important topics presented and discussed at the two day session. ASPA Secretary-General, George Faktaufon said the theme for this year’s meeting is Business First, Safety Always—shifting the focus to the bottom line of any business which is making money. “The reason we have this theme this year is that we have always been safety driven and dealing with someone else’s needs while our own needs, to make money, have been neglected,” he said. “We can be safe as part of our business but if we cannot make money, then we will not have a business to run. We will try to change the focus to making money with safety being an important part of that process.”

IATA presented a paper on the aviation and environment challenges and opportunities.  This was the first presentation about the role of the industry in addressing environmental issues such as gas emissions, carbon footprints and ways for airlines to look at some practical solutions. Then the state of the South Pacific industry was examined.  So far, our small and medium airlines are doing well regardless of the limited resources that we have.  Boeing of course came in with a positive outlook, everything is on the rise including South Pacific airlines looking to order new fleet,replacing old and dying aircraft. This also means there will be increasing upgrades to our current fleet as time goes by. Great for passengers and perhaps not so good for airlines as aircraft cost millions.  Several companies presented new technology that could be an advantage to airlines in the future such as ticketing systems and distribution models. Other presentations included those of air traffic services and the vision of uniting the whole South Pacific flight regions. This may look and sound brilliant however, there must be an incredible amount of dialogue as each island has sovereignty over their own airspace.  

Our South Pacific aviation industry is not independent, it heavily relies on other service providers for its continuous survival.  What I took away from this session is that no matter how expensive our aircraft is, how brilliant the customer service may be but if we do not put 'bums on plane seats' our airline business remains risky.  In addition, before we focus on controlling operations and adopting fancy safety management systems that will cost us time and money, we must know our standards first because we cannot improve on what we don't know.  Our quality assurance systems are never 100% full proof, they are unreliable as we do not have consistent auditing results.  Much work has to be done and this will not be done overnight.  We have to keep cooperating as small islands and learn in order to improve and keep our aviation industry afloat.  We may be small and isolated but together we are the South Pacific.  Together, we work for our people and this in itself should be a catapulting motivator to do better, to hope for the best.

"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." ~ Unknown

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Breeze me away!!!!!!!!

ETB news photo

Tourism is our biggest earner
Tourism is one of the main focus of government
There is a lot of money to be made in tourism
Our tourists number is rising each year

These are some of the sayings that are associated with our tourism industry and I don't care much for the negative discussions in the past year revolving around tourism.  This is not what this post is about. I do want to bask in the glow that came to Samoa about 2 weeks ago. Working at the airport and heading the Business Development Unit has its perks, one is being contacted about some spectacular events happening at our Terminal.

Two weeks ago, I received a call from Wendy Booth, owner of Seabreeze resort requesting approval for a number of her staff to be present at the airport awaiting the arrival of her husband Chris Booth.  This arrival was special because Chris had gone to Dubai to receive 2013 World Travel Awards for being Samoa's Leading Hotel.  'The red-carpet event is considered the Oscars of the tourism industry and this accolade, voted by travel and tourism professionals worldwide, recognizes the commitment to excellence which Seabreeze has demonstrated in the last twelve months' (EBT news,2013). 

Samoa Airport Authority of course said yes to accommodating the staff and key people in the Tourism industry to await this exciting award.  Yikes, I think I was as excited as Wendy!maybe more excited. It did have something to do with having first knowledge from Wendy about the award. Apart from aviation, tourism is the next best thing, when these two industry marry, they produce amazing babies that will sustain themselves!

Back to the issue at hand, although I have never been to Seabreeze, never dipped my toes in their sands or enjoyed a nice pinacolada in the honeymoon suite...I felt like I was a part of it all.  There has been too much negativity around tourism lately and this was just a great icing on the cake.  This was  to remind everyone involved in the industries that five star resorts did not win us awards, BULA did not win us awards, not even a state of the art 100+ room with infinity pools won us an award. It was simplicity at its best.  It is a group of people who love what they do, who are committed to pleasing their customers, who do the little things so well,right down to having the right toilet roll, batteries in a TV remote,fast, reliable and friendly service. I am indeed proud because Seabreeze made the little dot that is Samoa a little bit bigger on the map.  I have read all their reviews on Tripadvisor and boy is Wendy a good host from what I have read.  

The best part was, Wendy's energetic chatting away on the phone and the sound of her voice, she is genuine. She loves working with our people and her staff love her back for that.  They put on a whole other level of celebration at the airport for the event and of course all the big names in Tourism and hospitality were there to bask in the glow and that's okay.  

I have always wanted to say that I abhor the decades of Tourism studies that compare us to Fiji. We are NOT Fiji.  Fiji has a much bigger population. more British influence,their resources are plentiful as so are their islands and oh guess what, they have almost 5 times more population than us. So why is our tourism industry compared to Fiji? Why are we smaller?Because they have 500,000+ more reasons compared to our measly 180,000 people!! Oh and the secret (not), Fiji was built up by the Pacific in the 1970s to be an Air hub, they have air bridges!haha...They are closer to all our main markets, more air services, more air services agreements and oh they have more investors for their 5 star hotels..need I say more.  While I was scrambling around to find one decent paper on Samoa aviation/tourism for my thesis,all I could find were brilliant articles about Fiji this, Fiji that...
Samoa is Samoa
  1. Fiji a bigger population and more islands
  2. 1 hour aviation gas fuel and 2 hours extra flight to Samoa might seem small but not to the airlines
  3. The cost versus services in Samoa compared to Fiji are of vast gaps
  4. ALL pacific islands are trying to sell the same sun,sand,beach, mermaid products to the same markets.
Seabreeze winning this award proves that not all tourists come for 5 start resorts and Gucci  shopping, they come to see whether Samoa is indeed real.  If we are people of the sun and if we are as friendly as they say we are.  As the name suggests, we are different and set apart because we ARE SAMOA! We are set apart in our political stability, in our tattoo designs (and no I won't get into the Nike fiasco), our people, our virginity (yes we are still untouched) and for crying out loud-OUR SAMOANNESS...sell that, put that in a bottle and let the world catch our frangipani smell. They will come and sleep under our stars.

I take my hat off to Seabreeze, for all those who strive to do the best with what they have, for those around and in tourism, for the supporting services because without them there is no tourism and did I mention our people is the pulse and heartbeat of our tourism?? I have tried my best to not sound like a bloody academic and I think I have succeeded.  An award may be just an award, however with the backing and the big media platform around it, people will think again before booking their flights. With that in mind, I conclude that the complex machine that is tourism is not that complex at all! People need to work together to achieve the impossible.   

I leave you now with the saying of Seabreeze..."Seabreeze Resort, The Soul of Samoa in The Heart of Paradise"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cock-pit to fe-pit

With the speed of technology these days and the vast information that is out there, I wonder at times how many people stumble upon articles about us (about me). What is the image that is being portrayed about us online? How do we deal with that perception of us whether we are painted in a positive or negative way? How often do we want to reinvent ourselves due to those reviews? How true are these painted words about us?

Being one of the few females working in the aviation world of Samoa (however small that is) I am continuously reminded of those women who went before me.  The few females who paved the world that was and is still very much predominantly male.  There is a reason why the flight deck area is called a 'cockpit' after all.  These are some of the women that overcame numerous challenges so that people like me can enjoy the benefits of aviation.

Of course the men cannot be downgraded, they are a part of the aviation world but nowhere near challenged bombarded like us.  I remember when I first applied to be a pilot at the Massey University Aviation School.  One of my teachers in high school strongly discouraged me from applying simply because I 'will not get in'.   I wondered if it was due to me being a Pacific Islander or that my Math skills weren't as shiny (I gave up on Math a long time ago), maybe both.  

"NO' and "YOU CANNOT" are two phrases that simply leads to more determination on my part.  I come from a place where women do not sit idly while life goes by, where tama'ita'i do not let the men do all the talking while they take the back seat, where women do not shy away from the hard and rugged road.  I come from a place where women are warrior queens, where women take courage in the face of animosity and take a challenge when their souls say so.  In the words of a true warrior queen -Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel “E au le ina’ilau o Tina ma tama’itai.” translated to English “The legacy of women is one of total achievement.”

I ignored what my highschool Dean of Students told me, I went ahead and applied and was one of the five girls in the whole course.  It was no easy feat, we had to work twice as hard as the men.  You don't have to be an Einstein to fly a plane but it is not easy feat either.  In the end, the women graduated and to this day, I know that four of us are still in the aviation industry.  
You might ask, ok so what does the first part of this article have to do with the mini testimony in the second part? There may be a substantial amount of information about us on the internet these days, our facebook pages might be splashed with glamorous shots (or not) and our Linkedin profiles might speak of great achievements (or not).  These bleeps of our stories do not give a full picture of our journeys, they do not define or validate us, they are just that---bleeps.  So next time you ask someone what they do make sure you ask them the following
  • what their story is
  • what their journey is like
  • the challenges they faced along the way
  • if that experience has added value to their lives
I'd like to add a link of the small bleep that is my aerosexual or my aviation aficionado side (acidionado defined) journey through the aviation folds.

Me flying a B787 Dreamliner  simulator @ the Boeing HQ in Singapore before the actual plane entered the market

 If you are a young woman (which I once was and still am at times) and if you want to take up aviation, do not let a person or fear hold you back.  If you want to be a pilot, go for it.  If you want to be an airline manager, go for it. If you want to be an air traffic controller, flight inspector, aviation specialist, ground handler, baggage handler, aviation consultant ....there are endless possibilities.  Life is what you make of it.  Take that step and never look back :)

If you are interested in aviation and have some questions, feel free to leave a comment and I shall try my best to answer.


aerosexual defined by the Urban dictionary - 
  1. someone who loves planes and generally flies them.  Also know as a pilot. Usually face large dilemmas such as choosing between the curveness of a Cirrus SR22, verse the tenderness of handling a piper
  2. the industry term for aviation aficionados (I like this one)

Ehhh..your grandmother was hot too!

My vision fulfilled When Dr A (fiancee) proposed 2 new years ago, I suggested a photo shoot of some sort. Of course being shy with ...