Ugyen Dema - Bhutan’s Very First Female Captain For Drukair Hopes To Inspire More Women To Become Pilots
Donning four stripes over her shoulders, Ugyen Dema, 33 was promoted following a ‘marchang’ ceremony.
By Phurpa Lhamo | Kuensel
After about 35 years, Bhutan finally saw its first female captain for Drukair, the national airlines on 5 November 2018.
Donning four stripes over her shoulders, Ugyen Dema, 33 was promoted following a ‘marchang’ ceremony in the morning. Towards the evening, she flew her first flight to Bangkok.
Ugyen has been with Drukair since 2006. She started as a trainee pilot and gradually went on to become the First Officer before being appointed as a captain.
Drukair has 19 captains, of which 12 are non-Bhutanese. Ugyen Dema is now part of the seven Bhutanese captains among the flight crew on Drukair. Drukair has 462 employees of which 120 are female.
Drukair’s Chief Executive Officer, Tandi Wangchuk said that becoming a captain meant that one must be qualified technically and mentally.
“Once the aircraft door closes and until it opens at the next station, the captain is in charge of the aircraft. The captain makes all the decisions.”
Ugyen Dema’s thoughts about being Bhutan’s first female captain
For Ugyen Dema, captainship is just another step in her career. She said that becoming Bhutan’s first female captain was not her plan, but was glad that it came her way.
“We have visionary leaders who make sure that we have equal opportunities. But to take the opportunities for yourself, setting personal goals is important.”
“My mother has always been my source of inspiration because of how consistent she is with everything. Challenges are the same for male and female and gender has got nothing to do with becoming a pilot. If you are willing to be consistent and work at it, I don’t think there is anything you cannot achieve.”
Ugyen Dema is one of the only two female pilots in the country. Both of them fly for Drukair.
Drukair has also appointed the airline's other woman pilot, Sonam Lhamo to the post of Senior First Officer along with a male pilot, Tenzin Namgay on 5 November 2018.
Stringent criteria to be met before obtaining captainship
CEO Tandi Wangchuk said that for bigger airlines, pilots reach captainship earlier than in Bhutan. This is due to the required flying hours that must be clocked and this takes a longer time to be achieved in Bhutan.
He added that apart from the hours required, the pilots also had to go through aptitude tests.
“There may be people spending their lifetime but not getting their captainship. It is a historic day not only for Drukair, but also for Bhutan.”
“There aren’t many female pilots and aviation is a male dominated area. I hope I can inspire young girls to become pilots,” Ugyen Dema said.
This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for the Bhutan Times.