Interview with our flight instructor, Annika Sun

Annika Sun Flight Instructor at PFC

My name is Annika Sun, and I work as a flight instructor at Pacific flying club.

I have done all of my training here at Pacific Flying Club. I started as a private student back in 2019. And then, afterwards, I wanted to pursue more training. So I joined the BCIT program in 2020, completed that and continued with my flight instructor rating at Pacific flying club and was hired after my training. So it was the next step in my career progression as a pilot.

Play Video about Annika Sun Flight Instructor at PFC

After obtaining a pilot’s license, what is the process to become a commercial pilot?

There are many roads to becoming a commercial pilot to work in the commercial industry, right? So you can start privately through a flying club like Pacific Flying Club as a private student, get your private pilot license, commercial pilot license and the ratings you need and find other jobs to accrue your hours. Another way of becoming a pilot is to join a formal program like the one at BCIT Airline and Flight Operations Commercial Pilot Program. And that’s what I have chosen. So the formal program they are very structured, and then it’s very intensive, and you get on top of the flight training provided by Pacific Flying Club; you are able to gain a more well-rounded understanding of the aviation industry.

What are the differences between obtaining a pilot’s license through BCIT and pursuing it independently?

I feel the main difference between being a private student and following your curriculum is the time structure. So if you’re following the structure that’s given to you by BCIT, you have a timeline, and you have to be dedicated to training full-time. However, when you’re working on this as a private student, if you have lots of time, you can do it full time or you may choose to do it part-time. So everything is at your own speed.

Is greater self-discipline required when pursuing a pilot’s license independently?

Well, it depends on the person. So you need self-discipline, regardless of which program you choose; for you to be in a very structured program, you still need to study and keep up with a fast pace. When you’re going by yourself, some of my friends have completed their private pilot and commercial pilot training quite quickly.

Could you share with us your goals as an instructor here at PFC?

Short term, I will be a flight instructor here; currently, I’m teaching in the single-engine department. And then, I plan on moving over to the multi-engine department and teaching Multi-IFR, and that’s the next step in the progression of my work as a flight instructor at PFC.

Could you share with us your goals after becoming a pilot?

For my next step, I want to join a small regional airline.

Could you share a few stories from your time as a BCIT student?

When I was in BCIT, when we were building time for the commercial pilot license, we had a portion called mutual flying, where we flew with another classmate. We were able to go to different locations, you know, beautiful locations such as Kamloops or even further than that. On one of my trips, we went to Golden and returned home through the Rogers Pass.

And we were pretty high up; we’re flying around 9500 feet. At that point, I looked around me, and I was astounded at how close I was to nature. My eyes watered up, and I thought I felt so lucky. My whole family and all the supporters that I have enabled me to see the beauty of nature, and I’ve never felt so close.

Think about it. Usually, when we’re driving on the road, we look up towards the high peaks of mountains. When we are in an airline, we look down towards the mountains. They’re majestic. They’re pretty, yes. But when you’re just in between, and you’re flying this tiny aircraft, you suddenly realize that as humans, we’re so small, and I felt in awe of nature; it was just breathtakingly beautiful.

So it’s very lucky for us. For those of us who have a pilot license, right, you’re able to explore, you’re able to see the beauty.

A couple of years ago, a friend asked me to help him go to Abbotsford because he had purchased a car there. He wanted me to go down with him and his car, and then we’ll each drive a car back to Vancouver. At that point, I said, Why don’t I just fly you over? I’m a pilot and said why not? So we rented a plane, and we flew from Boundary Bay, and then I dropped him off in Abbotsford. And he drove back. The whole trip took less than half an hour. So as a pilot, you have options when you have your private pilot license. You don’t have to be stuck in traffic if you don’t want to. For my friend it was one of the most memorable experiences he had. So he could go up into the sky with his friend; it was an enjoyable experience. And you know, he’s even thinking about flying.

Could you tell us how you were introduced to becoming a pilot?

I was first introduced to the aviation industry when I became a flight attendant. I worked as a flight attendant and the first flight I took as a flight attendant. I was privileged to be on the flight deck to see the landing.

We were coming into Vancouver, I saw the runway in front of me and heard ten, nine, eight and then it was so smooth, right? So the whole flight was smooth, with very little movement landed smoothly on the runway. And that was astounding.

At that moment, I thought maybe I could do it too. So a few months later, I looked into becoming a pilot. I spoke to mentors and friends and said I was interested. What should I do? And they said go for familiarization flight. Go try it out. See if you want to be a pilot. So I went on a FAM flight, and I loved it. So that’s what I did. I became a private student, and then later on, I wanted to pursue this at a full-time pace. So I went through the BCIT program. Now, flying may not be for everyone, but you wouldn’t know if you didn’t try a familiarization flight, it’s the door to becoming a pilot. So go out there and see what you can do. Once you take control of the aircraft and see how beautiful it is to fly in the blue skies, you come to appreciate it.

Could you talk in more detail about what a FAM flight is?

On a Familiarization Flight, a flight instructor will take you and show you how to do a proper walk around, and a safety check of the aircraft will show you how to do the weight and balance basically to check if you’re within limits to fly and show you all the documents we need to take on board once you’re ready. Then, we’ll get into the aircraft. We do all the checklists, and we take off. After that, we’ll take you over to, let’s say, White Rock and then show you what it’s like to fly the aircraft.

We will show you the references we use inside the plane and outside the aircraft. How to fly with a relationship to your nose and the horizon. And then, we will also show you how to control the aircraft. Then we will give you control for a bit, and you can fly the plane. After that, we’re going to come home and land. This is the first flight that you have as a pilot. If you’re interested, you can continue learning and take more lessons.

Can you elaborate on what makes being a pilot so attractive to you?

Being a pilot is more than just operating the aircraft. We were learning so much more. You really have to work on the mentality of being a pilot, so pay attention to safety to planning, but you’ll learn how to fly on the ground.

You remember all of your procedures, everything you need to do in an emergency, and the feel and the look of the aircraft on how to fly. You will learn that in the air, but many preparations are needed on the ground.

What kind of experience can a prospective BCIT student expect?

BCIT offers an aviation program. It gives you a more well-rounded knowledge of the aviation industry. For my program, we had courses on airline operations, how an airline operates, airport operations, and safety management systems, and we also did survival training, high altitude indoctrination and marketing and things like that. So it opened my eyes to the world of aviation; it shows you the multifaceted world of aviation.

What are some of your favourite experiences of being a pilot?

One of my favourite experiences as a pilot was taking my family up in the plane. My grandparents came to visit me here in Vancouver, and I said do you want to go up in the air with me? And they said, of course. Sure. Right? When I was a baby, my grandma always said you are so tiny, honey; when can the day come when I can sit in the car that you drive?

The day comes when I can take my grandparents up in the air with me as a pilot, and now they’re in their late 80s. I got the headsets for them. So they’re seated back in a 172; we take off, and now we’re in the air, and I asked them, “Are you feeling okay?” Once we’re on cruise flight and they said yeah, and my two elderly grandparents are looking outside the window, and they don’t seem surprised. They don’t seem surprised!

And that’s a gift my family has given me, that unconditional belief. They never doubted. They never thought it was unbelievable for their granddaughter to fly a plane. So for me to be able to let my grandparents come up with me into the sky was extremely special.

Last year, I took my mom from Boundary Bay to Port Hardy. I showed her the beautiful Sunshine Coast on the way there. On the way back, we went through to Victoria, we came back to Chilliwack, and then we came back all the way to Boundary Bay. It was beautiful! And again, my mom had an enjoyable time. Whether you’re a private pilot or a commercial pilot, going up with your family and friends is a really important part of your experience as a pilot.

Can you briefly describe the aviation community?

The aviation community is extremely supportive and welcoming. If you ever need help, there are always people willing to answer your questions to guide you in the right direction. So never be afraid. And we’re all aviation enthusiasts. We all love to talk about aviation. If you want to find a friend, if you want to go somewhere together. The community is extremely welcoming.

At PFC we have the club members group on a larger scale; let’s say at BCIT, when we’re within our program, you know our cohort is together, and once we’re out, we are still in contact with our school. But on a larger scale even there are other programs like for women in aviation, there are various groups you can join like the 99 or if you want to join Women in Aviation, Elevate and many like that. And also, in BC, we have BC Aviation Council. You can go to many groups to find people with similar interests.

So, if you are curious about flying, don’t hesitate to contact us at info@pacificflying.com or 604-946-0011..

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