Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States to honor the diverse and vibrant contributions they have made to our country. We would like to recognize some of the Asian and Pacific Islanders aviation heroes of the past and present during this year’s Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month. We are extremely thankful for the bold, often unsung aviators of our time. Aviation unities all of us, and we in turn salute the adventurous, the daring, and the brave who decide to take the pilot’s seat of an aircraft and call it home.
From our own team – Khoi Duong
First, we would like to recognize someone from our own Microsoft Flight Simulator Family: Khoi Duong – private pilot and Quality Engineer. His knowledge of small planes and his passion for flight simulation has been instrumental to our team. Khoi got his start in flight sim in 1997 as a high school intern and couldn’t stay away! His first official title was with Flight Simulator 98, and he continued to work on several of the flight simulators throughout the 2000s (Combat Flight Simulator, FS 2004: A Century of Flight, Combat Flight Simulator 3).
In 2003, the team encouraged him to get his PPL, and shortly after he joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) where he is a rated Mission Observer. He has experience flying the C152, C162, C172, C182, and DA40. Khoi is an incredible asset to the team today, and his expertise in not only aviation but flight simming has been extremely valuable over the years.
If you keep up with our Community Spotlights, you’ve probably recognized this name from this article. Shinji Maeda is a Japanese-American who earned his pilot license in the US despite a fateful car crash that took out one of his eyes when he was 18. Unfortunately, there were laws prohibiting him to pursue his PPL (Private Pilot’s License) in Japan, so he decided to uproot his life for a chance to continue his education in the United States. He never lost sight of his goal to fly, and eventually received his PPL in 2005. Shinji became a CFI and has been training pilots-to-be and inspiring everyone across the globe to chase after their dreams.
He is currently in the middle of his Earthrounder trip – a flight around the world in his Beechcraft Bonanza to spread the positive message that “You are possible.” You can follow Shinji and his journey around the earth here. Last we saw him, he was flying somewhere in Southeast Asia!
Katherine Sui Fun Cheung
Designated as the first female Asian-American pilot, Cheung was one of the most well-known stunt fliers in the 1930s at a time when Asian women were stereotyped to “quietly keep house,” according to the San Diego Air and Space Museum website. She was absolutely not afraid to throw convention aside and take to the sky. Overseas, China dubbed her as “China’s Amelia Earhart” and was also beloved by her community in southern California. She flew solo after only 12 hours in the sky and became part of the 1% of licensed American female pilots in 1932. While she was known for her daring loops and barrel rolls, she was also well-versed in flying in blind and low visibility situations.
After becoming a U.S. citizen, she received her commercial and international license as well. She often gave motivational speeches, and as reported by Josephine Chien on the Asians in America website, Cheung said, “I don’t see any reason why a Chinese woman can’t be as good a pilot as anyone else. We drive automobiles, why not fly planes?” Learn more about her story here.
Meet Jessica Cox, a Filipino-American who is the first person to pilot a plane with only her feet. Though she was born without arms, she was determined to conquer not only everyday tasks but skills such as swimming, driving, and flying. Cox had a fear of flying, like many, but decided she wanted to overcome that fear. After three years of flight lessons, she became a certified pilot om 2008. Jessica has one foot on the yoke and the other on the throttle, and is able to perform smooth movements and air maneuvers. While it wasn’t easy, she has learned a lot from her experiences and now gives motivational speeches across the globe.
These are just a few Asian/Pacific Islander aviators we find inspiring, and we would love to hear more about your aviation stories! Feel free to reach out to the Community team via the forums or other social channels to share your story. We celebrate Asian/Pacific American Heritage month and give thanks again to all the incredible Asian pilots both past and present.