Not many people are aware and that includes most Malaysians, that we have the world’s first qualified MiG-29 fighter pilot serving in our very own armed forces.
A Malaysian woman, Patricia Yapp Syau Yin from Sandakan holds the world record as the first ever woman to become a qualified MiG-29 fighter pilot.
It is common knowledge that very few non-Malays are serving in the Malaysian Armed Forces, what more non-Malay women, which is a rare breed indeed, a blogger has highlighted this unfortunate situation recently.
“As a result, the Malaysian Armed Forces is overwhelmingly Malay. Hence, in any leadership line up you would see more Malays becoming senior and star officers compared to the non-Malays,” a recent blogposting on seademon.me highlights how this can be further misunderstood as non-Malays being discriminated.
However, despite the overwhelming obstacles, the blogger pointed out that a handful of non-Malay women have risen to the top, especially in the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).
“Major Patricia Yapp who hails from Sandakan, Sabah is an examplary Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI) who is the world’s first female pilot to fly the Russian-made Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29N,” the blogger said.
Who is Major Patricia Yapp?
Besides being the lone woman member of the highly respected RMAF Smokey Bandits aerobatic display team, the 39-year-old Sabahan is a full-time mother of two children who enjoys cooking.
In an earlier interview for an online magazine blog, Patricia revealed that her parents had wanted her to become a piano teacher, but somehow she ended up graduating with honours from the RMAF College in Alor Star in 1997 and was soon the tactical lead pilot with the Smokey Bandits under her call-sign, “Foxy”.
Patricia apparently has personality and looks to match her ‘foxy’ label too.
She beat nine other participants from illustrious corporate and professional backgrounds to win the Ratu Inspirasi contest segment aired on TV3’s women’s programme, Nona.
In the November 2007 segment, which featured 10 of the country’s top female achievers, Patricia was voted the winner.
“I didn’t expect to win. I thought the winner of such contests would be someone from a corporate background,” Patricia recalls.
She also shared her climb to the top of a field monopolised by men.
“Since I was young, I knew this was what I wanted to do. The fact that my brother, who was a pilot with Malaysia Airlines, was also one of the reasons for my determination.
“My parents, especially my father, didn’t approve. They were sceptical of a woman wanting to be a fighter pilot. They thought it was not a suitable job for a woman.
“After looking at my achievements in this field, they finally turned around and I know they couldn’t be happier,” she said.
“Many women are afraid to even think of becoming a pilot, for fear of having to endure the gruelling physical training.
“Actually, flying is not judged by muscle strength. It is more of mental preparedness and determination,” she said, reminding readers that gender does not play any part in enduring G forces up to 5G when you are barelling through the sky.
Her gender also did not give her any exemption in the army’s physical training as Patricia reveals she went through the same physical, flight, and field training just like every airmen in RMAF.
“Women don’t get special treatment and are all evaluated by the same standard and are given the same opportunities. The key is to never give up trying after each failure because it has taken her a lot to be where she is now. It is all about discipline, courage, teamwork and commitment,” seademon.me quoted Patricia’s recollections.
Highlighting the lack of interest among non-Malays and even more so, non-Malay women in joining the armed forces, the blogger recounted Patricia’s own experience in participating in a recruitment drive.
‘She is saddened though that during one of the recruitment drives in her home state of Sabah, she waited for half a day for Sabahans to turn up but none did during the second half of the day,’ seademon.me pointed out the uphill battle to counter this misconception.
“Therefore, there is no reason for the non-Malays to shy away from joining the Malaysian Armed Forces. There is also no reason for the people of Sabah and Sarawak to feel as if they would not be able to compete against those from the Peninsular. After all, Major Patricia is from Sabah.
“And the current Chief of the RMAF is from Kuching, Sarawak.”