Eliminating the stereotype that only men can be pilots

Posted on Sep 28 2020

Picture this: A young girl who migrated from a small island in the Philippines to another small island, Tinian. After years of watching her family in the aviation business, she decides to take part in it too, making her the first student that Star Marianas Air, Inc. will be helping with her training.

Angel Concepcion Lagunay, 17, a Tinian Junior-Senior High School alumna who is currently pursuing a degree in business management and accounting at the Northern Marianas College, recently took her first step in an aviation career by trying to obtain what one would call a beginner license, a private pilot license, or PPL. She starts her training with SMA on Oct. 1 and, after getting her PPL, she will then need to obtain an instrument rating license, and then finally a commercial license.

SMA pilot captain Brandy Buzza said that having a PPL will only allow you to carry passengers such as friends, family, and co-workers, but you cannot fly for paid compensation or for hire.

Lagunay actually comes from a family of pilots, most of them being her uncles. Her aunt has been on the business side of things, in this case, at Star Marianas. “I was really inspired by her, how she does business, and her husband as well, is a pilot. I was really inspired by how they work here,” said Lagunay.

Before taking off, Star Marianas Air’s pilot Brandy Buzza, left, and pilot trainee Angel Concepcion Lagunay go through a preflight inspection at the Tinian International Airport last Saturday. The inspection gives the pilot and/or co-pilot a chance to check the plane before it goes airborne. (JUSTINE NAUTA)

She hopes to be an inspiration to other young aviators who are interested in learning how to fly. Right now, globally, there aren’t many female pilots, but Lagunay and Buzza hope to be an inspiration for younger females to eliminate the stereotype that only men become pilots.

Buzza stated that Lagunay will be flying for as long as six months or as little as two months if Lagunay’s schedule fits with hers. Once Lagunay is done with her training, an examiner from the Federal Aviation Administration will certify Lagunay with her PPL.

Lagunay says that after she gets all three pilot certificates (PPL, instrument rating license, and the commercial pilot license), she will continue to fly for SMA and, if possible, conduct training for future students who are interested in getting their pilot license.

Last Saturday, Saipan Tribune had the opportunity to tag along with Buzza and Lagunay to witness her first take-off and landing. Buzza had Lagunay fly over and around Tinian for a practice flight that consisted of learning how to conduct a preflight examination, take-off, talking to air traffic control, the controls of the plane, the airplane’s brakes, landing, etc.

According to a press release from SMA, Lagunay received approval from the Department of Homeland Security to begin training to become a pilot. SMA has agreed to assist her in training come Oct. 1. According to Buzza, SMA is not opening up a pilot school but is only helping Lagunay with her pilot license by letting her use SMA planes for training purposes. It is solely on the captain’s day off, and if the students’ schedule permits them to also go through training.

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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