Kimberly Brooke McCraw became a pilot in the US Air Force in 1989. Twenty-six years later, she moved to Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan Province, to become a captain with Chinese airline Yunnan Lucky Air Co., Ltd. of China. She became the first foreign woman to captain a commercial airliner in Southwest China.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. I welcome you, on behalf of the crew … from Wuhan to Kunming. The flight time will be 2 hours and 10 minutes. It is sunny in Kunming …" McCraw said on December 14, 2015, on the flight from Wuhan to Kunming. She spoke in Chinese for the first time since she began working for Lucky Air in October 2015.
McCraw has pilot's licenses issued by both the US Federal Aviation Administration and the Civil Aviation Administration of China. Even more impressive, she has logged more than 10 million consecutive kilometers of safe flying time as a pilot.
McCraw says she formed a bond with China when she was a child. "I was living in Hawaii, when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, when I started using chopsticks … People would ask me 'what's your favorite food?' I always said my favorite food was Chinese food … I once worked part-time at a Chinese restaurant, when I was 16. At that time, I imagined that I would work in China some day," she says.
In 2015, one of her American friends, who was working with an airline in Chengdu, in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, told McCraw that Lucky Air was recruiting pilots. McCraw applied immediately.
In August 2015, she moved to Kunming, after she received the job offer from Lucky Air. "When I first got the invitation, I was very excited, and I couldn't wait," she says. She downloaded a Chinese-learning app to improve her Chinese. Two months later, she passed all of the examinations to become a captain with the airline.
Lucky Air was established in June 2004. The company started recruiting foreigners as pilots in 2013. By the end of December 2016, the company had more than 60 pilots from more than 10 countries, including Brazil, Poland and Australia. McCraw is the first female pilot with the company. "We will recruit more female pilots in the future. Female pilots fly the plane more gently and carefully (than male pilots)." Wang Ke, Vice-President of Lucky Air, says.
McCraw loves her job. "It is such a joy to work with Lucky Air. The instructors are professional and welcoming; yet, they are very strict in terms of standards. It makes me respect the Chinese standard procedures that we use to operate the aircraft safely."
McCraw's two daughters live in the US, and she often chats with them via WeChat, China's most popular cross-platform, instant-messaging service. "I share my experiences in China with them, and I hope they will take their vacations in China. China is great … I am willing to work in China till I retire. I also hope my daughters will live and work in China." McCraw says.
(Executive Editor: WANG SHASHA, Women of China English Monthly February 2017 Issue)
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