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35,000 Feet Above

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

I am an international pilot, and I normally mostly fly planes that are scheduled to go to the West-Coast of the United States, London, and Hong Kong. I’ve been a commercial pilot flying internationally for two years and before that, I was actually a flight instructor. Overall, I’ve been flying for about ten years now. It’s my dream job.

I was in San Francisco about three weeks ago, piloting one of the last scheduled San Francisco-Melbourne flights. We flew from San Francisco knowing that we weren’t coming back for another job, which was pretty depressing. On the way across, some passengers admitted that they had tested positive for the Coronavirus ten days before and after we landed back in Melbourne, a few of the crew reported mild symptoms. To come home to find out that people on our flight had COVID-19, I had to get tested myself. Thankfully, the test came back negative for the Coronavirus. I was very lucky.

Back in Melbourne, life has absolutely changed. Everyone is at home, taking social isolation seriously. The streets are quiet. Cafes are closed. It’s remarkable. When things are taken away, you begin to appreciate the small things, like cooking a meal with a friend or even going on a walk or run around the corner— those are privileges now.

I am currently quarantined in a hotel in Hong Kong for 48-hours. I just arrived from piloting the first flight back to Hong Kong from Australia in a month. It’s great to be back at work, though I will say the quarantining can be tough. On this most recent flight, we just brought back quite a few Hong Kong residents repatriating back to Hong Kong along with some fresh fruit and vegetables. On the upcoming flight back to Australia, we’re bringing repatriating Australian citizens back home, as well as a lot of medical supplies. The crew and I know that we are definitely taking a bit of a personal risk, but it’s so worth it, because we are helping a lot of people.

From a health and safety perspective, I’m actually pretty comfortable with repatriation flights. We only have a limited number of passengers on these flights and the health measures that the company goes through make it pretty safe to fly. Everyone on the flight will get medically screened a number of times prior to getting on the aircraft. While boarding the aircraft, we are given every form of protective equipment, like masks, sanitizers, gloves… They’ve also upgraded all of the filtration in the air-conditioning systems in the aircraft.

The airline I work for did ask pilots to do these repatriation flights, but we all had the option to say no. Some pilots and crew who live with older parents were more inclined to say no, but because I live alone with my girlfriend and I am relatively young, I’m able to go out and do these repatriation flights. This Melbourne to Hong Kong flight was actually my first official repatriation flight. Within the next few days, I’m piloting a flight to Brisbane, then another to Hong Kong, and then finally back home to Melbourne.

I’m just happy to be doing good in the world.


Written by: Natasha Leong

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