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Meet Sonam Choki — A Passionate Pilot From Kathmandu, Nepal

Most of us have at least once in our lives dreamed of becoming a pilot, and soaring high up in the sky. Today we have Sonam Choki who made this dream a reality! She currently works as a pilot in Nepal and is also mother to 8 dogs. Sonam is definitely taking her life to new ‘heights’ and can inspire many to do the same.

Join us, as Sonam tells us more about her work, some memorable incidents and places she’s been to!

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Sonam Choki in the cockpit of an aircraft.

  • Hello Sonam, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hello there! I am Sonam Choki Sherpa, 31-years-old, living in Kathmandu, Nepal. I’m pretty much leading a normal life apart from what I do for a living. In my day to day life, its either work or I’m out with my dogs (8 of them. Yes, you read that right!), indulging in hiking, swimming, wall climbing, yoga and traveling in the rural parts of my beautiful country.

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Sonam sits on a cliff during a trek at Shey Phoksundo National Park, Nepal

  • That’s quite adventurous. Can you tell us about your work and what inspired you to become a pilot?

I have been working as a commercial pilot for 8 years in Nepal. My work includes flying passengers in the country. Growing up, I wanted to become a gynecologist and serve women in rural Nepal where Government medical services are lacking. However, a part of me always wanted the ‘easy’ way out, which was being a pilot. Like everyone, I used to think that pilots don’t need to study and that it was a glamorous and well-paying job.

I studied for my dream to be a doctor. However, I didn’t perform well enough in 12th exams and hence, chose flying as my career. I realized later that the studying bit wasn’t true, as I have to constantly review and keep up with the ever-changing technologies in aviation. But I have come to love and enjoy every part of my job.

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One of Sonam’s eight dogs, Miya

  • What’s a day in your life like, as a pilot?

My preparation begins the night before my flight for the next day. I have to check if I have a clean and ironed uniform ready, my shoes polished, some fruits packed and set in the refrigerator, and my flight bag all set. The next morning I wake up usually before my alarm – being a morning person really helps with the job – and then freshen up, have breakfast and lemon tea.

Upon reaching the airport I have to do a breathalyzer test, get the destination weather reports as well as alternate airport weather reports. Then, I do a pre-check of the aircraft I’m scheduled to fly and get everything ready for the flight. After the day ends, we get dropped home.

  • What were your days like when you were training to be a pilot?

The training days were the best days of my life. I have never enjoyed flying till date more than my training days. The first time flying the little airplanes, the feeling of being completely alone during solo time; in control of the aircraft and the freedom to choose where to fly to will always be missed. Commercial flying is totally different as I’m responsible for the passengers as a pilot and to my crew as a captain. During training days, we flew from point A to point B and that’s about it. Although now, every day takes us to a new destination and that’s exciting.

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Posing in front of Edinburgh Castle, Scottland

  • Has there been any funny or memorable moment that you can think of in your career as a pilot?

An incident I would call something to more of a gender-specific treatment that a colleague of mine received. She was flying as a copilot, and they experienced some turbulence during the said flight. Upon landing one of the female passengers looked inside the cockpit and stated, “Oh, it was a female flying, no wonder we experienced turbulence.”

As it is, us women have to prove that we deserve to be in the position we are in every step of the way. A mistake that a male peer makes would be an individual thing however if a female pilot were to make it, it would be coined as a gender specific error.

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Sonam poses for a picture with South Indian actor Sayaji Shinde

  • Being a pilot, you must have been to many countries, which one do you feel most connected to and why?

I have been blessed to travel for leisure and for work to many countries. Out of all the places I’ve visited I loved Colorado, USA the most. Having my roots in the mountains, I’ve always felt I belong there. Colorado was one such place that I would really relish living in – the mountains, the fresh water lakes and greenery were just amazing.

  • What is your dream plane and air-route that you wish you could fly?

My dream aircraft to fly would be going back to flying small Cessna’s. I’ve never felt more alive flying anything else and my dream route would be just about going anywhere in the Philippines where I trained for my commercial pilot license. Just going back in time flying like in my carefree training days!

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Sitting on a viewpoint, overlooking Tegenungan Waterfalls, Bali.

  • What has been the most challenging airport you have flown to?

The most challenging airport I have flown to is the Tumlingtar Airport, in the mid eastern part of Nepal. The approach is a little tricky as we have to follow a river to enter the valley where the airport lies. The runway has drop edges on both ends because it is a valley and the airport is surrounded by high hills. Beautiful but challenging and a risky airport to fly to.

  • What do you enjoy most about being a pilot?

The best part of being a pilot is the fact that there never is a dull day at office. I found my passion in my job, what better could I ask for! I look forward to going to work everyday. “Do something you love and you will never work another day”, as they say.

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Flying over Kathmandu, Nepal

  • Lastly Could you share some words of wisdom for those aspiring to be a pilot like you?

Those aspiring to be pilots in the future I would suggest that you inquire and research to know what you’re getting yourself into. The work is fun and well-paying but long working hours with no ‘festival’ or holiday-off’s is not an option. Family time will be constrained and weekends won’t necessarily be off. But it will all be worth your while!

To connect with and follow Sonam, you can go over to her Instagram page.

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