Sangyong Chong is an A320 instructor with Vietnam Airlines, on contract with Rishworth Aviation. Originally from South Korea, he trained in Florida and later Toulouse before moving to Vietnam with his family in 2006
What got you interested in aviation?
My lifelong wish was to fly. From childhood I loved to see and read about aircraft. When I was young my family bought me lots of toy aircraft and later I started to make model aircraft. I also love fighter jets because of Top Gun - it was so cool. I hoped to join the air force to become a fighter pilot, but my family wanted me to join our family business. While I completed my compulsory military service in the army, I lived on an air force base, met Korean and American pilots and saw many different jets. Despite my parents' wishes, I never forgot about my dream.
© Vietnam Airlines
Where did you go from there?
I returned to university after military service and read about a cadet who became an airline pilot without air force experience. I joined the Asiana cadet programme in South Korea and went to Florida to learn to fly. After completing my training I started flying Boeing 737-400/500s as a first officer. In 1997 I did my Airbus A320 transition training in Toulouse and later I was upgraded to become an A320 captain at Asiana. I joined Vietnam Airlines four years ago, and since November I have been working as an A320 type rating instructor.
What prompted you to join Vietnam Airlines?
I often flew to Hanoi with my family. We knew about Vietnamese culture, which is similar to that of my home country. We decided that if we had a chance to live in another country, it would be Vietnam. I also had friends flying at Vietnam Airlines who highly recommended the airline. Everyone I have met so far has been bright and accomplished, yet friendly and easy to talk to. I like these kinds of cultures. The airline has pilots from more than 30 countries, so we call it the UN for pilots.
Describe your typical schedule?
My contract is six weeks on, two weeks off. Line captains usually fly domestic and international routes for four to five days, have one or two standby days and a couple of days off. Now as an instructor, I teach for three or four days in the flight training centre, have three or four days flying and then sometimes go for type rating simulator courses out of Vietnam.
What do you enjoy most about Vietnam Airlines?
All the staff are friendly, even the chief executive. I'm treated like part of the family. Flying is based on straight Airbus standard operating procedures and flight training manuals are in English, so there is no risk of mistranslations. Schedules offer 10h duty days or less, the first officers are good to fly with, cabin crews are well-trained, and the mechanics have fantastic standards. It's a wonderful place to work.
What do you like most about the job itself?
There are many smart young cadets who are willing to learn and keen to fly. They have about 300h total when they get in the A320 so I have to be patient and have an open heart to teach them to be safe pilots and help them build confidence. This offers a great sense of achievement as an instructor. I feel lucky to have a job as an expatriate pilot, as long as you fly well there are no pressures, it is nice and relaxed, and a great way to meet pilots from all over the world, share experiences and make friends.
Where to from here?
My dream is to keep working with Vietnam Airlines and become a type-rating examiner in a couple of years time, and maybe in the future if the opportunity arises, fly a large NG airplane for Vietnam Airlines.