“I am a faithful believer that we all have a mission in life, in mine it was this, which has made me grow, not only professionally, but as a person, today I am stronger; I have had a lot of spiritual growth. Pakistan has made me more grateful”, stated Kristel Acevedo.
The Pakistani skies are the home of Kristel Acevedo, a Costa Rican who since last October became the first woman to be a pilot and captain of an airline in the Asian country. She spoke with Acevedo about how she started her professional dream; how she came to Pakistan; what her experience has been like; and what advice she gives women to achieve her goals.
When did she start to dream of being a pilot?
The dreams of being a pilot are in my blood, since I grew up surrounded by pilots; my uncles, my cousins, my father and even my brother (who died in the exercise of this profession), made aviation their way of life, so my dreams as a child were between little planes.
How was that path before arriving in Pakistan?
I was always very clear that it was not an easy profession, much more for a woman. It is not an easy course due to a thousand factors, but I always had that goal. Starting with the death of my brother, which affected us greatly as a family, it seemed incredible to think that, despite that, another person in the house would dedicate himself to the same occupation.
I have been dedicated to aviation for 14 years; I started in a local company, to later be part of 2 other airlines. On that journey, I had to make stopovers in an unexpected and mandatory way. However, I was always clear about my north because “skies are my home”.
After my last dismissal, I applied to different airlines around the world and it was Air Sial, which took my flight hours into account to join their ranks and thus become their first female pilot and captain.
I arrived in Pakistan last October; first of all, I did several tests using a simulator to assess my capabilities in an emergency. I also participated in training by Air Sial instructors to finally make my first flight on November 24th, last year. That took me many more hours, all on local flights. However, the airline will start with international travel very soon.
How has your experience been in that country?
It is a totally different and unknown culture. Those first days were difficult, despite the fact that I left Costa Rica and left with a suitcase full of hopes for the job opportunity.
It is something totally extreme, something that one is not used to; a time change, a new language. In reality, everything is different; from food, clothing, poverty, social life, the role of women and their rights, especially in such a macho country. However, this is about adaptation and, in my case, it did not give me much time to think. I did not even want to analyze much; I was simply focused on my goal, and my goal was to reactivate myself as a pilot as soon as possible, to start flying, and that is how it was. In short, it is a daily fight against many things, against the unknown. But still, I was able to do it.
I share with co-drivers who have been very respectful. I fly with people my age, or younger, and I even have many co-pilots who are older; some retirees, who are retired military, but they all respect your rank. They always gave me my place and that is appreciated. In other words, I earned their respect, always respecting them, being courteous and, above all, being empathic with them.