KUALA LUMPUR 29 May – Looking at her sweet smile and gentleness, one could never believe that Norhana Abdul Manaf, 43, is the first female helicopter pilot who has served the Royal Malaysian Air Force for 23 years.
In fact, Lieutenant Colonel Norhana would be the happiest person whenever she had accomplished her mission to rescue and provide aid to the people in need on the ground.
For Norhana, the most challenging experience in her career was the mission to search for Nuri helicopter that had crashed in Gunung Sempah, Genting Highlands in 2007.
“The search and rescue mission took a week to spot the crashed Nuri Helicopter. Coincidently the pilot was my best friend who should change with me to fly from Kuantan to Kuala Lumpur.
“The big challenge was to locate the helicopter in the thick forest and hilly terrain with unpredictable strong winds blowing alongside the bad weather,” she told Malaysia World News (MWN).
She added, the mission was successful and the dead body was taken on board using a rope and a stretcher.
Asked whether she was affected emotionally by such incident, she said, despite being sad for losing a friend, she had to carry on with her work and try her best not to make mistakes.
Another incident she had confronted was when the helicopter had a technical problem on her rescue mission to an aborigine’s village in Pitom located at the border between Perak and Pahang.
“I had to stay in that remote place for three days and two nights as there was no road accessible. We went there on the request from the villagers for a doctor and medical aid services.
“I managed to go through using the survival training knowledge that I have learnt from RMAF College. I also learnt a lot about the aborigine’s culture and that was a very interesting experience,” she said.
Her mission to rescue and search also took her to the borders to supply food, medicine and other requirements for the Malaysian Armed Forces from the highest-ranking officials to the aborigines in the remote areas.
Norhana also told Malaysia World News that she was once offered to be a jet fighter pilot as many of her flying instructors were males. However, Norhana did not accept the offer as her father had once advised her not to fly too fast and too high.
A mother of four children and married to a businessman, Norhana joined the Flying Training Center One, RMAF College, Alor Setar in 1995 after she completed her diploma in a secretarial course at University Technology Mara (UiTM) in 1994.
As she was very interested in joining the military services, she went for several interviews and passed her examinations to get into RMAF. She started her military training in survival, basic parachute and flying course at the center.
After 23 years of service with RMAF, she is now the Staff Officer Grade 1, Planning Officer, Human Resource Division, Ministry of Defence, Kuala Lumpur.
She is a Qualified Helicopter Instructor (QHI). Once a year she has to fly for six hours to comply with the “Annual Currency” requirements. In her career as a military pilot, she had flown Nuri and Aloutte helicopters.
Talking about competency and skillfulness compared to the male pilots, Norhana said, no doubt it is a tough career but as long as you fulfill the standards required and you are physically fit then there is no problem of discrimination.
“The challenge is actually to ourselves. Anyone, regardless of gender, can be a pilot, provided all the learning process and the intensive training provided by RMAF are being abided,” she said.
– Malaysia World News