A special ceremony was held for Mei Hua Huang

A special ceremony was held for Mei Hua Huang

Learning to fly

Aviation school in Pitt Meadows 'saves a heart.'

It was the loss of her legs that helped Mei Hua Huang get her wings.

But she had to leave China and come to Pitt Meadows to get them.

Now 19,  Mei Hua’s legs were crushed when her school collapsed during the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, which killed almost 70,000 and left another 18,000 missing.

Her rescue came in a helicopter, and it left her with a special feeling for being up in the sky.

Despite the loss of her legs, Mei Hua hopes to one day have prosthetic legs that would allow her to become a pilot.

Her school principal has advocated for one of his top students, and had asked numerous flight schools in China to offer a flight experience.

But only Island Coastal Aviation in Pitt Meadows took up the cause. The flight training centre based at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport sponsored her to take an introductory flying program in March.

She took three weeks of flight training, compete with aviation theory, flight simulator training, and eventually piloting an aircraft under the guidance of an instructor.

Mei Hua’s odyssey was highlighted during an event in her honour on Thursday, March 31. As consulate officials from China’s office in Vancouver watched, Mei Hua took off in a float plane from the Fraser River, and was at the controls for a flight.

She has enjoyed her time in Pitt Meadows, aside from just the aviation experience.

“It showed me how warmhearted the people are – Canadians are,” she said. “It taught me if you have a dream you should go for it, and maybe someday it will come true.”

She remembers her first flight, and learning from experience that even a subtle movement of the plane’s controls could mean a big movement of the plane. One of her passengers on that first flight quickly turned white, she said with a laugh. But her next flight was much better.

“She’s pretty good with the plane,” said instructor Cristian Sepulveda, adding that she can turn it on, take off, climb and descend, but is not yet able to land.

“She’s awesome – a great kid, with lots of energy,” Sepulveda said.

The flight school held a special graduation for her.

“Today we witness Mei Hua making her dream, flying, come true,” said James Wu, the COO of Island Coastal Aviation. “Today is a graduation ceremony for her, to celebrate this young, brave lady taking off in the blue sky of Canada.”

Mei Hua was exciting and happy to see so many people care about her.

She is a frequent public speaker and a leader at her school. She is returning to China to finish Grade 12.

However, she has been accepted into UBC, and hopes to one day become a physician – she doesn’t intend to fly as a career.

“I’m grateful to the doctors and nurses who took good care of me when I was in the hospital,” she said. “I want to be a doctor not just to save lives – to saves lives is easy. But also to save hearts.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Downtown businesses along 224 Street. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
E-commerce pilot program to help businesses in Maple Ridge

New program will help businesses build their online presence

Isabella Muzzolini said she is ‘honoured and excited’ to become a Georgia Bulldog. (Special to The News)
Soccer sensation signs southern scholarship

Maple Ridge’s Isabella Muzzolini will play for the Georgia Bulldogs next year

Maple Ridge artist Zoran Malinovski has a new online exhibition called What’s Happening. (Angie Malinovski/Special to The News)
Exhibition by Maple Ridge artist brings environment back to the forefront

Zoran Malinovski’s online exhibition called What’s Happening

Maureen Blamey is a seniors outreach social worker with the geriatrics team. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
New geriatrics team to help seniors in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

The Seniors Service Team was formed to improve the quality of life for pre-frail and frail, medically complex seniors

Baillie House long-term care is located at Ridge Meadows Hospital. (Google Maps)
Five people test positive for COVID-19 at Maple Ridge’s Baillie House

Long-term care facility is one month removed from its last outbreak

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon (Dec. 3) after an inmate escaped from corrections officers. The man was taken back into custody a short while later. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
UPDATE: Prisoner shot at by guards in Abbotsford had history of escapes

Stephane Bissonnette escapes from corrections officers, but is arrested a short while later

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

Most Read