The engine is the heart of an airplane, but the pilot is its soul,” so goes the saying. As the world celebrates World Pilots’ Day, get to know three dedicated aviation professionals and proud pilots of Cebu Pacific, the Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, with which one of its pillars is supporting the education of aspiring ones and enable them to make their dreams take flight.
A childhood dream takes off
Many young dreamers hope to become pilots and finally take to the skies someday. For Captain Bensie Tan, the youthful fleet manager of the A320/A321 aircraft of Cebu Pacific, this desire has never rung truer. “My mom tells me that, noong bata pa ako, [when I still was a kid] I’d always say, ‘I want to be a pilot,’” shares the 35-year-old father of two, whose wife also happens to be a Cebu Pacific pilot. This dream led him to enter PATTS College of Aeronautics, eventually graduating with an Aeronautical Engineering degree. But despite coming from a traditional Chinese-Filipino family of businessmen and professionals, Capt. Tan was made aware early on that sending him to flight school was something they couldn’t afford.
Luckily, he got word of Cebu Pacific’s pilot program which includes a sponsorship of half of the needed fees to get licensed. With the odds evidently being in his favor, he got accepted to the program in 2007.
“There were a lot of bumps and obstacles along the way,” Capt. Tan recounts. “What was supposed to be a 1-year course took us over two years to finish.” But his perseverance clearly paid off, and he formally joined the Cebu Pacific team in 2009.
As a young elementary school student, First Officer Neil Mark Enriquez would save his daily allowance just so he could buy plastic model airplanes, which he would then line up in his room after assembling them together. This childhood hobby exposed him early on to different types of aircraft, allowing him at a young age to easily differentiate one from the other. “I already knew what a 747 or an A-10 was. Or even an F-14,” beams the Cagayan de Oro (CDO) native.
It was when he first saw and rode an Airbus during a flight to Manila from CDO that Enriquez knew he wanted to be
a pilot—only that it took him a whilst to get there, graduating first with a degree in Library and Information Science.
But thanks to Cebu Pacific, he was able to go through intensive aviation training in Australia to make his childhood passion a career.