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By Vaaimamao Poufa

PAGO PAGO, SAMOA (April 14, 2000 - Samoa News/PINA Nius Online,)---For Laura Fa’amoe Ale, to fly across the sky is a career of choice, a childhood dream come true. She is now a commercial pilot for Delta Air Lines.

In town for a short family visit, Ale still chuckles at the thought of being a novelty in the world of aviation, not so much as a woman pilot but as a Samoan woman pilot.

She hails from Leloaloa Village, the daughter of Ale Tifimalae and Fuji Nomura Ale. Her father is currently the Treasurer for the American Samoa Government.

Laura was born in Utulei in 1968. She attended the Fiailoa Elementary, which used to be located at the site of the current motor pool parking lot for the EOB building. Then she went on to Matafao Elementary to complete her primary education before moving up to Samoana High School.

Laura did her freshman and sophomore years at Samoana before moving to Carl Albert High School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where she completed her secondary education and graduated in 1986.

"From the time I was a little girl, I always wanted to fly an airplane," she recalled to Samoa News. The helicopters on the purse seiners would fly by and she’d be awed at the sight of these magnificent machines controlled by a human being.

She later enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, majoring in aviation. Laura said that she found her studies to become a pilot very challenging, with some intense testing. She also said that there were some easy courses and she found meteorology to be the most interesting.

"You know, obstacles can be easily overcome if you concentrate wholeheartedly on the mission you want to accomplish," Laura reflected.

Of course, neither of her parents was ever at ease with her choice of career study. They viewed aviation as a dangerous kind of work and not necessarily suitable for a young woman, a stereotyping that Laura's success in her chosen field eventually swept aside as meaningless.

"But they were very supportive of me anyway," she fondly remembers. "My father even helped me to get a one-year government scholarship so that I could finish my last year in college."

But he would not fly with her when he came to visit her in college. He claims now that he rejected the offer because Laura did not have a pilot’s license, "but I had a student license," Laura replied jokingly.

Ale eventually flew with Laura after she got her private license. He said that they were up in the air for a few hours and boasted that Laura let him experience the thrill of driving an airplane for an hour, although Laura jokingly interrupted by saying she had the auto pilot on the whole time.

After graduating from college, the University of Oklahoma offered Laura a job to become a pilot training instructor but her father persuaded her to come back to American Samoa where she might get a chance to be a pilot for a local airline.

Indeed she did. Laura came back and became a pilot for Samoa Air in 1992. And she said that she was glad she came back to serve and thanked the people of American Samoa for the one-year scholarship she acquired.

During her time with Samoa Air, Laura was one of the pilots who had to bring down their Twin-Otter plane for a controlled landing when they were experiencing engine problems. This occurred in 1994 and, fortunately, there were no reported injuries. Laura recalls that this was the closest she has been to an airplane accident ever since she started flying in 1987.

Laura left Samoa Air in 1997 and moved back to the U.S. mainland in search of greener pastures where she landed a job with Delta Airlines, where she has been for about three years now. And she plans to be there for an even longer period of time.

She said that it was not easy getting the job because including her, there were 20 pilots with different backgrounds in the pool of interviewees, but only two of them were selected.

During her training, Laura stated she was the most experienced flyer, accumulating the most flying hours in their class of 18. And she thanks Samoa Air for giving her the opportunity to do that.

Laura now flies one of Delta’s 120 MD-88 series aircraft, which is among Delta’s total fleet of 584 aircraft. Delta employs about 9,800 pilots and only 120 are women. Her flying route mainly covers the East Coast, from New York to Washington D.C., to Colorado, adding that she also flies to Canada sometimes.

Delta is among the top three U.S. airlines, together with United Airlines and American Airlines, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

Laura intends to stay and retire with Delta, and at the moment she is trying to achieve her set goals of flying more international routes, visit Europe more often, and work more for big bucks to cover an early retirement.

Laura said that whenever she has time during the flights she takes with her brochures and books about American Samoa and promotes the territory as a tourist destination to the passengers.

She also said that most of her pilot peers do not know of Samoa's existence, but there were some pilots who knew about American Samoa because of the plane accident that occurred on a previous Flag Day.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

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