Aviation has been a lifelong passion for Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) scholar Chua Sin Ying.
The 25-year-old has always been interested in the field, viewing it as a marvellous achievement.
Understanding the vital role that the aviation industry plays in Singapore’s growth and connectivity to the global economy also served to strengthen Ms Chua’s interest in it.
The CAAS Overseas Undergraduate Scholarship recipient is a manager in the Air Traffic Management Operations Planning (ATMOP) section within the air traffic services division.
Officers in ATMOP play an important part in managing the airspace around Singapore, as well as planning for future sustainability and success.
This is done through air traffic management (ATM) initiatives, as well as the constant monitoring and improvement of operations performance.
Ms Chua, who likens her role to that of an architect, says: “Planners transform the skies within the Singapore Flight Information Region into an intricate network of points and routes.
“We design systems, procedures and processes to facilitate flights safely and efficiently.”
She applied for the CAAS Overseas Undergraduate Scholarship after graduating from Hwa Chong Institution in 2011.
The scholarship covers university tuition and compulsory fees, and includes monthly allowances during the school term for living and rental expenses. Scholars serve a four-year bond if they pursue a degree locally, and a six-year bond for an overseas education.
Ms Chua graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom in 2015.
She went on to pursue a master’s degree in economics from Boston University in the United States that same year, graduating in 2016.
Sense of purpose
She feels the best parts of her job are the opportunities and sense of purpose it provides.
Her job also requires her to be a planner. She gets to learn from different situations that arise from managing air traffic operations, and gain a better understanding of the bigger picture behind CAAS’ daily operations.
She takes on air traffic control officer (ATCO) responsibilities too, directing planes to ensure they arrive at their destinations safely.
The job of an ATCO may seem similar to that of a traffic controller who directs cars on roads, but the difference is that aircraft cannot stop mid-flight, unlike cars. Hence, decisions about aircraft movement need to be made quickly, precisely and decisively.
As an ATCO, Ms Chua works eight-hour shifts. Each shift starts with a briefing on the weather and traffic conditions for the day. This ensures the controller is prepared with a broad situational awareness for the day’s work ahead.
Her work requires her to make accurate decisions with little margin for error. She breaks for 30 minutes after an hour or 90 minutes of work, when she is on duty.
Open to learning
The dynamism and complexity of Ms Chua’s job means that she has to continually stay on her toes, adapt to new situations and grow.
The numerous judgment calls that she makes stem from knowledge, analysis and experience.
“As there are so many potential scenarios that could occur, you cannot rely on your own experience alone — you need to be humble and willing to learn from others,” she says.
She advises those considering a career in aviation to find out more about it at an early stage. She also feels adaptability and persistence are key traits for success.
At the end of the day, Ms Chua finds her job satisfying and fulfilling.
She says: “People would probably be interested in a career in aviation if they came to appreciate how crucial our work is in keeping this global network running 24/7, 365 days a year.
“Their world is bigger than before, because everyone in this industry works to keep them safe in flight.