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Speech by Senior Minister of State for Transport and Sustainability and the Environment, Dr Amy Khor, at the Launch of the Women in Aviation International (WAI) Singapore Chapter

30 Mar 2021 Speeches

Good afternoon

President of WAI
Marie-Louise,

CAAS Board Members
Professor Chong and Mary,

Director-General of CAAS
Kevin,

CAG Director
Kim Li,

and WAI Members,

1.     Thank you for inviting me to today’s launch event. I am heartened that so many professionals in the aviation industry have come together to launch the Women in Aviation International (WAI) Singapore chapter.

2.     I am also encouraged that you have decided to launch the WAI Singapore chapter now, despite COVID-19, which has had the greatest impact on the aviation sector. Today’s event reflects our shared confidence that despite COVID-19, there remains a bright future for the aviation sector. It also reflects our collective resolve to come together to fight against COVID-19 and build back stronger.

3.     We have made steady progress. A year ago, the World Health Organisation had just declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Singapore was adjusting to having closed our international borders for the first time in our history. The global aviation sector was just starting to feel the jarring impact of COVID-19.

4.     Today, we have learned to live with COVID-19. Vaccines provide hope that we will be able to keep ourselves and our families safe, bring incidence rates down, and re-open our borders gradually.

5.     Importantly, our aviation sector has also survived the turbulence of the past 12 months. We have done this by proactively identifying areas where we can continue to play a role such as providing safe transit and maintaining our international logistics hub status. The Government remains committed to helping our aviation companies tide through the crisis. The recently-announced OneAviation Support Package will continue to provide support for companies to retain their core local capabilities, defray costs, and position the sector for recovery.

6.     It is also fitting that the WAI Singapore chapter is being launched this year, because this year has been designated as the Year of Celebrating SG Women. We will celebrate the contributions of women, past and present, in building Singapore, and the men who have played an active role in supporting and uplifting women.

Celebrating Women in the Aviation Industry

7.     Women have been vital to the growth of Singapore’s aviation and aerospace industry. Today, many talented women work in a range of technical and generalist roles; such as aerospace engineers, human resource managers, airport planners, air traffic controllers, pilots, and aircrew.

8.     When COVID-19 struck, their resilience, fortitude, and grit, like those of their male counterparts, were brought to the forefront. They answered the call of duty and made significant sacrifices to sustain our aviation hub.

9.     One example is Ms Natascha Phua, Manager of Departure Experience at Changi Airport Group. When COVID-19 hit, countries started closing their borders and airlines began cancelling flights. Natascha led the airport’s “flight transfer operations” to ensure that travellers whose flights were cancelled were able to get onto other flights to get home safely. More recently, she was part of the CAG team that set up and managed the largest vaccination centre in Singapore at Changi Airport Terminal 4. When we launched the vaccination exercise for frontline aviation workers, Natascha reached out to hundreds of companies to ensure that their workers could get protected. Thank you, Natascha!

10.    Another example is Ms Doreen Tay, who serves as an Air Traffic Control Officer (ATCO) at the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). Doreen and her colleagues are the first and last contact for planes entering and departing Changi – they guide pilots from the parking bay to take-off, and from the final approach into Changi until touchdown. In fact, Doreen recently joined the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) division, to understand how Singapore can safely manage our airspace with both manned and unmanned aircraft in the sky. Twenty years on, Doreen remains committed and passionate about keeping aviation safe. Thank you, Doreen and our ATCOs!

11.    By sharing Natascha and Doreen’s stories, I hope that we not only celebrate the achievement of our peers, but also encourage more women to join the aviation sector. How do we continue doing this? We need to change mindsets and support women better – to help our girls in school to pursue their dreams, our young women to explore internships and careers in aviation, and women of all ages to manage their career goals with family and other commitments.

Exposure in Schools

12.    I am glad that WAI actively encourages young women to consider a career in aviation through scholarships and the annual “Girls in Aviation Day” in September. These are important to help the girls in our education institutions dream big, and more importantly, work towards their dreams.

13.    In our schools, we are also committed to ensuring that all our youth get the chance to learn about Singapore’s aviation industry, and why aviation is so important to Singapore.

14.    Under the Applied Learning Programme (ALP), schools help their students connect academic knowledge and skills with real-world experiences. For example, Hillgrove Secondary School collaborated with Singapore Polytechnic to develop a Flight & Aerospace curriculum for their students. Most of us learned about the physics of flight through our textbooks, but these students learn about it by building balloon-powered cars and toy parachutes.

15.    We also have the Aviation Learning Journey (ALJ) where students visit places like the SIA Engineering Company, Temasek Polytechnic’s Flight Simulation Lab, and the Singapore Air Traffic Control Centre. Through these visits, they learn about aviation’s role in Singapore’s development, and the exciting jobs in aviation. To date, over 13,000 students have participated in the ALJ.

16.    By equipping our boys and girls with this knowledge and experience early in life, we will empower them to pursue their dreams.

Opportunities in the Workplace

17.    When our children leave school, we must also create opportunities for them to find meaningful and rewarding careers in the aviation industry.

18.    The Government, unions and companies work closely together to ensure that hiring and workplace practices are merit-based and non-discriminatory. Regardless of your background or gender, you can find and enjoy fulfilling and rewarding careers.

19.    Our aviation companies also have a big role to play in supporting women by creating a conducive environment for them to work in. I was very heartened to learn that over the decades, some traditionally male-dominated jobs such as Air Traffic Controllers have seen a growing number of women.

20.    I was also encouraged by Scoot’s recent flight from Singapore to Penang, operated by an all-female crew, to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Conclusion

21.    In Parliament earlier this month, Minister Ong described our Changi Air Hub as the lung of Singapore – drawing oxygen from the global ecosystem and vitalising every sector of our economy. COVID-19 may have hit us hard, but through our combined efforts, we will soar in the skies once again. In doing so, we will create opportunities for both women and men to fulfil their potential, and see their dreams take flight. As the saying goes, “The Sky is the Limit”. No where is this more true than for the women and men in the aviation sector! Thank you!