(Continued from the previous blog post Ever wonder how Christina Ling, our FA instructor became a Flight Attendant?)
The interview process was pretty tough, I went through a total of 3 interviews. The first one was with a very senior Flight Attendant—she was elegant, intimidating and very experienced. I was incredibly nervous. Luckily, I made up a list of possible questions prior to the interview and practiced and practiced! I passed the first interview and went onto a second one with a panel of three interviewers: a senior flight attendant, base manager and a supervisor. To this day I don’t know how I made it through that one either. I was just a shy, naive kid with no life experience. I must have sweated off ten pounds that day! (hahaha!). But when you want something bad enough like I did, you step up, put your best foot forward and get it done. My third test was the company aviation medical. I remember my mum telling me, “Christina, if they are sending you for a medical it’s a very good sign.” I couldn’t breathe for days and weeks after the process. Waiting and waiting to hear. Finally, I received that letter for an offer of employment. I landed the job of my dreams, one that I had been wanting and waiting for since I was a little girl. The tears flowed that day, tears of joy, all that pent up emotion, all the waiting, hoping, worrying. That March, at the tender age of 21 (I was barely 21 years old, I had turned 21 in December) I was hired by Canadian Airlines. My dream came true, and so began the start of my beloved aviation career.
March 18th is a date that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Little did I know that in the next eight weeks, my life would cease to ever be the same again. I put on my best suit, made sure my grooming was meticulous and drove out to the operations centre of Canadian Airlines for my first day of “Flight Attendant School.” I nervously walked into class and saw all the other trainees sitting in there waiting. I think we all had that same look on our faces, nervous as heck!! We were a class of 14—3 guys and 11 girls—from all cultures and backgrounds. Little did I know that after eight weeks together we would become so close. We learned to lean on each other and trust each other. The training process was not a walk in the park, it was extremely grueling and tough. Exams, drills, practical exams, and simulator training. Monday to Friday 8-9 hours per day with written exams almost every day. We were graded on practical exams as well. A firefighting exam where we had to put out a simulated on-board aircraft fire. There was a ditching exam in which we put on life vests, inflated them and jumped into a pool all while wearing our street clothes! We swam to a raft, climbed into it and erected a canopy. This exam was to simulate an aircraft ditching into the ocean (think of the movie Sully). We slid down an aircraft evacuation slide…think of those giant slides in amusement parks? You get the idea. They were all challenging exams. Looking back, they were meant to be tough, if you couldn’t handle it in class, how were you able to handle situations at 41,000 feet?
I wasn’t a very good student in high school I must admit. Math and sciences were very difficult for me, I just wasn’t born with the brain for those disciplines. I barely got through high school algebra. And don’t even get me started with University—Economics 101?! I failed miserably! I couldn’t grasp numbers of any kind! So was I a little worried about getting through flight school? Yes of course I was! We had minimum scores we had to achieve on all exams. How did I do you ask? Well, I am very proud to say that I scored over 90% on every exam, earning top marks! I guess what they say is true, when you truly want something you’ll find a way to achieve it. This was a subject I wanted to do well in. Amazing isn’t it? When you are doing something you love to do and are passionate about, it’s effortless! What I have taken from this? It is that we are all put on this earth for a reason. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Find what your passion is and nurture it. I could never be an chemical engineer, my brain isn’t wired that way and it is totally okay!
Okay back to flight school, sorry for veering off, I tend to do that. When I am teaching at CTC I always incorporate stories into my lectures. My students tell me they love my stories because they can learn from my personal experiences. That’s pretty awesome isn’t it? When I was a student, my class became fast friends, and to this day many of us are still friends and I love them dearly, like family. We reminisce about the early days as junior flight attendants, the things we did, places we went, people we met and all of our crazy, amazing adventures as flight crew. Kelly, Kim, Melinda, Janine, Silke … some of us still flying, some not. The three gentlemen in our class all eventually went on to become pilots! We have certainly earned our wings, and have certainly experienced life. We all got through those eight weeks of training together. We were also assigned to the “line” where we spent another six months flying on probation. If we passed that six months we became fully qualified flight attendants. Did we all make it you ask? Yes we did! We all graduated with flying colours and earned our wings.
Graduation was a beautiful, memorable day. We were all proudly wearing our gorgeous uniforms, presented with our certificates and pinned with our wings. It was a proud moment for all of us. Flanked by all the VIP’s of the In Flight team, Vice Presidents, base managers, supervisors and family, all were present to share this incredible milestone. We were about to embark on a career that would change our lives forever. Life as we know it will never be the same, and this holds so true. Passion can be such an incredible thing. All it takes is one event to ignite a drive and to follow your heart. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else, I was born to do this. People say that when I talk about airplanes, people, travel and adventure my eyes light up and they can see and hear the passion in me. Well it’s true. Aviation has been good to me and my family. It’s me, my personality and a big part of my life. Did I cry again that day? Yes, I did. The tears represented happiness, gratitude, relief and pure joy. So do dreams come true? Yes of course they can … with hard work, determination, passion and a little good luck. Never give up on a dream. As for that little girl? She grew up, became a Flight Attendant and worked alongside her Dad. Her life has come full circle and I’m very blessed.