Miss Pilot

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On a, Jupiter and Mars…

In other words…

While Frank Sinatra made these song lyrics famous, he wasn’t the first to go public with it. That would be cabaret singer Felicia Saunders who introduced the song, known as In Other Words, written by Bart Howard in 1954. Singer Kay Ballard made the first recording of the song. But most of us know it as a standard for Old Blue Eyes. Strictly speaking, this song really isn’t about flying, rather it is about the transporting of one’s heart.

The reality is that most of us want the same kind of transport. But to get from point A to Point B, over a longish distance, most of us choose commercial airlines.

Have you seen that film clip about Air Tahiti Nui? Its on abc, yahoo. even on news.com.au. This clip has been described by some as ‘jaw-dropping’. It has also been called ‘possibly the best airline video ever.’

Have a look:


Now I’m not going to write about Air Tahiti Nui. In fact, I’ve never been to Tahiti. But this clip does give you a nice feel for what goes into flying besides just buying a ticket and parking your tail in a seat.

The thing of it is, that this little piece of Air Tahiti Nui magic came out while I was in the midst of watching a Japanese TV Series called Miss Pilot. The series began on October 15th, and the 11th and final episode was broadcast in Japan in prime time at 9:00 PM on Christmas Eve.

This is the story of a smart young lady who worked in an izakaya (a bar-restaurant) owned by her parents. Her name – Haru Tezuka. She’s played by the popular Japanese actress Maki Horikita.

A quick synopsis goes something like this: Tezuka Haru has been desperately hunting for a job, but can’t get her foot into any doorway. She gets rejection letters so often, that she went out and bought a personal paper shredder. On a whim, more like – the worst that can happen is that nothing happens – her employment agency sends her out to apply for a job as a pilot for ANA, All Nippon Airways, which is Japan’s second biggest airline. Haru attends a seminar, then she takes the necessary exam to enter the world of aviation. She is more surprised than anyone when she barely passes.

This is the beginning for Haru as she is now on the path towards becoming a female pilot. But it won’t be easy, and will take some time. The training is more far more severe than she expected before taking the exam.

Haru has a long road ahead of her, with plenty of major obstacles. She’ll need to bond with her fellow cadets, put up with some very strict teachers called kyokans, and even spend 18 months in flight school in the United States, at the University of North Dakota. To get her pilot’s wings, she will meet various people in various segments of the aviation industry while going through the pilot training.

For us, it is an inside look at how an airline works. Haru and her fellows have to work in Maintenance, and as ground staff. They live in a dormitory at the airport. They spend time in lecture halls, have homework, and do menial tasks like sorting nuts and bolts looking defective ones. When they work as ground staff – those are the folks you deal with at the gates before boarding, Haru and the others learn to master the fine art of customer service, in short – dealing with anxious travelers face to face.

There’s also a group that provides intelligence about air traffic, runway issues, and the all-important weather data. We, and these pilot candidates learn that while a pilot and co-pilot actually fly the plane, they are just a part of a huge team that helps all of us get from A to B.

You’ll enjoy watching these young adults struggle to learn. You’ll resent the kyokans just like they do, and you’ll feel as if you too are carrying the heavy workload. But you will absolutely love the sequences when Haru and the rest get to fly their first planes – 4-seaters in North Dakota. You’ll be amazed when they, and you get inside of a simulator which recreates the actual experience of flying only it is a machine inside of a hangar.

I particularly enjoyed the work of Maki Horikita as Haru, of the beautiful Saki Aibu as Chisato Oda, the other girl in this training team, and Takumi Saito as the stern trainer (kyokan).

The series runs for 11 episodes of an hour each. While the story is very familiar, and breaks no new ground as a dramatic work, it is engrossing and interesting. Who will succeed, and who will fail and wash out? Will any of these young pilot trainees hook up? How will personal feelings impact performance, and what about family issues?

There’s some new event each week, that will give you cause for concern, or a sense of elation. And just wait until you see what a real cockpit looks like. Thirteen hundred and four days after the training begins, they’ll get their wings.

The DVD will be released in Japan on April 23rd, and while I don’t have a date for a subtitled DVD box, you can expect it sometime in May.

I’m sure you can find this series with subtitles on the internet, if you run a search on google or bing.

I really love a woman in uniform. For a brief 30 second teaser, of Maki Horikita in uniform, check out the clip below:


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