What's your name and job title?
Lena Okamura – I’m a first officer for QantasLink, flying the Q400.
What did you study? When did you graduate?
I studied a Bachelor of Aviation (Flying) at the University of New South Wales and graduated in 2017.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Tokyo, Japan and my family and I moved to Sydney when I was eight years old. I have lived in Sydney ever since. As a young child, I was very fortunate to be able to travel abroad with my family, and the experience I had flying was what first got me excited about aviation.
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
I got my current job as a first officer through the partnership the university has with QantasLink – the Qantas Future Pilot Program (QFPP). I started at QantasLink in mid-2018.
How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?
From a very young age I wanted to become a pilot. Flying always fascinated me and I wanted to one day sit at the controls of an aeroplane. During my high school years, I did look into other career options to see what else was out there, but I soon realised that my interest and passion was in aviation and I decided to pursue my dream of flying.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
The interview consisted of a group exercise, an individual interview and an aptitude test. The questions were mostly situational based as well as regulatory knowledge.
What does your employer do?
QantasLink is Qantas’ regional airline, connecting regional and metropolitan cities across Australia.
What are your areas of responsibility?
As a first officer, I am second in command to the captain. I collaborate with other crew members, air traffic controllers, engineers, and other operational staff to provide safe operations for our passengers.
Can you describe a typical work day? What was the last thing you worked on?
I arrive at the airport with plenty of time before my first flight. I assess the weather at the departure and destination airports, read the notes provided on each airport, as well as any defects the aircraft may have had. The captain and I will calculate how much fuel is required for the flight and discuss our plan for the day. We then have a briefing with all the crew to talk about en route weather and other operational requirements. Once we get to the aircraft, I conduct a walk-around to inspect the exterior of the aircraft while the captain checks the equipment inside the aircraft. We go through a number of different checks and obtain an airways clearance. During this the passengers are boarding, and once we complete a head count and verify our data, we are ready to go.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?
The Qantas Group offers many different opportunities for career development. Once I have accumulated a certain amount of experience and flying hours, I am able to go through training for a command upgrade. There are other opportunities such as going into the Training and Checking department, and various management roles available.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
If I wasn’t in my current position, I would most likely be a flying instructor or flying for a charter company.
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
There are many things I love about my job; the responsibility, the amazing view from the sky and the fact that each day is never the same. I love that I’m constantly learning and being challenged in different situations. To top it off, I love being part of the passengers’ journey as they embark on new travels, or return home.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?
There is a lot of responsibility that comes with the job. We must be competent and comply with regulations and standards as set by Qantas and CASA. Because of this, I’m continuing to study every couple of weeks. The working hours and days are very different to that of a regular nine to five job. Due to the nature of the industry, public holidays and weekends are often normal working days for us.
What advice would you give to a current university student?
It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do; it might take a few career changes until you discover what career path you want to take. Constantly challenge yourself, and never stop learning.