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Spotlight on Trail Blazer Capt Anastasia Gan, Pioneer Class of 1976

Spotlight on Trail Blazer Captain Anastasia Gan (Pioneer Class of 1976) – Singapore’s first female commercial airline pilot


Article printed in The Straits Times on 3 February 2021.

From a seat behind a desk to the hot seat of an aircraft cockpit, Ms Anastasia Gan went from being among the first few batches of female officers in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to Singapore’s first female commercial pilot.

In 1977, at age 19, the fresh junior college graduate decided to pursue a career in the army and joined the SAF’s Women Officer Cadet Course. In a collection of reflections written by the pioneer batch of students from Catholic Junior College, titled Our Footprints — Reflections in Truth and Love, she likened the nine-month course to “a long camping adventure”.

Ms Gan graduated as the top cadet during that course and was assigned an administrative role in the SAF. But she quickly realised that she preferred a role that would take her beyond the confines of an office. When the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) began recruiting pilots a year later, she applied for a spot and was accepted.

“Pilots were always associated with excitement and adventure, and portrayed as awesome, tough and cool men in fighting machines,” she wrote. “I wanted that and I knew I had to fight all social norms to step into the unknown male-dominated arena.”

Ms Gan became one of a handful of women to earn the coveted RSAF pilot wings in 1979. She later became the air force’s first female qualified flying instructor. Disciplined yet nurturing, Ms Gan was given the affectionate call sign, Mama, by her fellow pilots.

After 23 years in the RSAF, the high-flyer joined SilkAir in 2001 where she rewrote Singapore’s aviation record books once again by becoming the nation’s first female commercial pilot at the age of 43. The mother of three daughters was also appointed an authorised flight examiner by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore in 2012.

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(Photo credit: Capt Anastasia Gan, Our Footprints)

Capt Gan shared her fond memories of CJC in a book specially put together by the Pioneer batch of 1975-1976 titled, ‘Our Footprints — Reflections in Truth and Love’. These are extracted from the book.

Footprints cover.jpg

My Office in the Sky!

‘Each typical college day began with an uphill walk. Then it was daily prayers led by Bro. Patrick, CJC’s first principal, from the centre of the square, the one that is today close to CJC’s main entrance. There was a sense of excitement and spirit in the air. Every day during those months, it was a discovery that is very hard to describe or for many to understand what it meant to be a pioneer and being part of that history.

As we were from mainly all Catholic schools, there was also a sense of belonging, amidst feeling lost in the new environment. As a school population, we were very involved in all activities such as the running of the school canteen to the design of the uniform, school crest and motto. This was done way before it became a norm for students to be involved in shaping the college. This was very special because it made us responsible and gave us ownership.

The two years in CJC were wonderful and it went by too fast.

I have learnt that in life, opportunities will present themselves to you and you must rise up to accept the challenges. I say adopt a positive outlook and go searching for what you really desire. Don’t live life with regrets of what could have been. I know most of the readers would be at the college age and still unsure of what lies ahead. Do not despair if you have not decided what career path to choose. Have faith but embrace life and seize the opportunities that come your way! I hope everyone has a fulfilling career as I have. God Bless!’

Click here to read more reflections from the Pioneer Class of 1976.

In Veritate et Caritate