In 2023, Vietnam Airlines celebrates 30 years since its founding as the national flag carrier. However, Vietnam Airlines’ history is tied to the beginnings of Vietnam’s Civil Aviation industry in 1956, as well as the transition from military to civil aviation, from Soviet to Western technology, and the economy’s growth and globalization. Heritage meets Executive Vice President, pilot, and flight instructor Captain Nguyen Hong Linh, who has accompanied Vietnam Airlines on its journey for the past 40 years.

Captain Nguyen Hong Linh

Embracing technology to integrate with the world

As the youngest in a select group of pilots from Flight Crew Division 919 sent to study Western technology, Captain Nguyen Hong Linh was a witness and active participant in the transition from old Soviet planes to new Western ones. This transition was a watershed moment in Vietnam Airlines’ transformation, coinciding with the need to change its business administration, and standardize its operations and flight safety processes to meet international aviation practices. With a wealth of knowledge acquired during his overseas training in aviation technology and economics, in addition to two years of experience with the famous carrier Air France, Nguyen Hong Linh was entrusted with developing regulations for operations and training, in addition to the airline’s quality assurance standards, which eventually grew into Vietnam’s civil aviation regulations.  

When the country began to integrate deeply with the world, Vietnam Airlines’ flight crew grew exponentially, as did the need to master new airplane technology. The year 2015 saw an important milestone: Vietnam Airlines became the first airline in Asia Pacific and the second in the world to adopt and safely operate new Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s aircraft. This played a significant role in turning the carrier into Vietnam’s first and only 4-star international airline. Where it once depended on foreign pilots, 80% of Flight Crew Division 919’s pilots are now Vietnamese. This entire division has mastered the art of flying new and modern planes, saving hundreds of billions of dollars for the annual budget. This achievement owes no small part to Captain Nguyen Hong Linh, who was the Division Head and chief flight instructor for Flight Crew Division 919, and later became Executive Vice President in charge of Operations at Vietnam Airlines.

Flying into history

After 40 years spent in the skies, Captain Nguyen Hong Linh has endless memories. He was entrusted with captaining hundreds of journeys for top government and Party officials who were representing Vietnam’s image and position in partnerships with friends around the world.

Some flights were trials that tested the captain’s ingenuity and courage, such as flights to evacuate Vietnamese citizens from the Libyan warzone, or the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Many flights served as missions to protect national security. “Those were the flights that served as proud journeys, helping to enrich the glorious traditions of Vietnam Airlines,” recalled Captain Linh.

 With great emotion, he recounted the tribulations faced by Vietnam Airlines due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the Executive Vice President in charge of operations, Captain Linh was directly involved in ensuring stable flight operations, keeping the workforce in top form, and safeguarding pilots, flight attendants, and frontline units. The flights that safely took off and landed during those chaotic times represent hard-won connections that were made even as the world went through an unprecedented pandemic.

Young shoots follow old bamboo

Forty years ago, Nguyen Hong Linh was summoned for a meeting with his superior officer. At the time, he was a young pilot, fresh out of a course on aviation technology and economics in the Soviet Union, one of five students sent to work in the civil aviation sector. They were told: “You are the first group of core officers requested by the General Department of Civil Aviation to build this sector. You must have a desire to practice and contribute to prove worthy of the confidence bestowed upon you.” That was the first day on Executive Vice President Nguyen Hong Linh’s proud and honored 40-year journey to become a decisive and creative leader with skills and spirit combined.

From this June, “Division Commander” Nguyen Hong Linh – as he is fondly called by other pilots – will no longer perform his managerial duties in Vietnam Airlines, as required by regulations. He has taught almost all of Vietnam Airlines’ current flight instructors. However, Captain Linh’s passion and connection to the skies will live on as he will continue to fly until he reaches the official retiring age for pilots. As the teacher, superior, and colleague of generations of pilots, Captain Nguyen Hong Linh wishes to instill younger pilots with the spirit of discipline, the drive to learn, and the responsibility to build the core values of Vietnam Airlines, so that the highest standards of flight safety are maintained along with constantly improving service quality.