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Up in the Air: An Interview with Norman Lo Shung-man,Director-General of Civil Aviation
  • <p>“For a period of time, I was working full time in CAD, part-time without pay flying B737 and as a volunteer pilot on S76 helicopter with RHKAAF at the same time.I honestly think that I have the best job in the world.”</p>
  • <p>“For a period of time, I was working full time in CAD, part-time without pay flying B737 and as a volunteer pilot on S76 helicopter with RHKAAF at the same time.I honestly think that I have the best job in the world.”</p>

“For a period of time, I was working full time in CAD, part-time without pay flying B737 and as a volunteer pilot on S76 helicopter with RHKAAF at the same time.I honestly think that I have the best job in the world.”

Dec 2013

Flying is quite common now, so it might be difficult to believe that Norman Lo Shung-man, Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), had never boarded a plane before joining the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) 36 years ago. In the past three decades, Mr. Lo has enjoyed an interesting career with different twists and turns. Starting his aviation career as a Student Air Traffic Control Officer, Mr. Lo has become a qualified air traffic controller, an airline transport pilot licensed both on aeroplanes and helicopters and a trained air accident investigator. He flew the Boeing B737, the Airbus A330 and a few turbine-engined helicopters. He had also investigated a number of aircraft accidents involving large public transport aeroplanes and helicopters. Now as the DGCA, he leads a team of aviation experts to exercise safety oversight on all civil aviation activities in Hong Kong.

Mr. Lo's first ride on an aircraft came two weeks after he joined CAD in 1977. It was not a commercial flight - he boarded a helicopter of the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force (RHKAAF), which provided a range of services to remote villages in Hong Kong. “On that flight, the crewman dropped newspapers from the helicopter for the villagers for them to maintain a paper contact with the rest of the world. It was a special and enlightening air experience which changed my career path.”

In the first few years, Mr. Lo was sponsored to attend local and overseas courses on air traffic control (ATC) and flying related training programmes. In 1982, CAD permitted him to join the RHKAAF as a volunteer pilot where he learned to fly as a commander on more advanced aeroplanes and on helicopters.

“I was more eager to learn flying helicopters than on aeroplanes as it was on a helicopter which I gained my first airborne experience,” Mr. Lo said. Another reason behind his love for helicopter flying is that helicopter missions are more meaningful. “It is used to save people's lives. It can be used for search and rescue, to put off hill fires, to take doctors and nurses to remote villages to provide medical services to people who lived there. I felt that the time I spent on helicopters was very meaningful in helping people with difficulties,” he said.

Another flying opportunity came in 1988. At that time, Mr. Lo had already acquired all control ratings related to ATC. He opted to take up new challenges and transferred to the Operations Officers Grade in CAD. As an Operations Officer responsible for general aviation safety, he was twice sent to the United Kingdom to undergo accident investigation training and flying instructor course. CAD also offered him in subsequent years a chance to fly commercially with airlines. “I was flying the B737 for Dragonair for about two years and on a part-time basis thereafter for a while until they completely replaced the B737 with Airbus A320 and A330. For a period of time, I was working full time in CAD, part-time without pay flying B737 and as a volunteer pilot on S76 helicopter with RHKAAF at the same time. I honestly think that I have the best job in the world at that time.”

It was tough, but Mr. Lo said the knowledge and experience acquired had equipped him with the necessary skill sets to manage the department now. Apart from providing ATC services to airlines and as the investigation authority for air accidents and incidents, CAD is also responsible for safety oversight on airport operations, airlines, aircraft airworthiness and maintenance, aviation security, air traffic management and its system standards. “You can never tell when your knowledge and experiences will be required in your career as you move on,” Mr. Lo said. “The more you learn the better, and you will become more qualified to take up new challenges.”

“A career in aviation is full of opportunities,” Mr. Lo advised IVE students, especially those studying aviation-related courses, to consider enrolling in top-up degree programmes after graduation. “Degree holders are generally more qualified for higher or management positions in the aviation industry. But working attitude is more important which is common to many other jobs. If you join the aviation industry, don't be afraid of taking up new challenges as every challenge has a door open up to an opportunity,” Mr. Lo said.

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