Hmong Americans in the Aviation, Airline & Aerospace Industry17 min read


My name is Youa Xiong and I have recently joined the aviation industry about a year ago. Since then, I have met many amazing Hmong persons in the in the aviation, airline and aerospace industry. I hope that this article will inspire many of you to join the aviation business. I know there are many more of you out there, please email us if you would like to be a part of this article:


Tee Feng Xiong, 28
2A373 Tactical Aircraft Maintenance Craftsman; F-15 Specialty
FAA Airframe and Powerplant Certificate
BAS Management

“As a Tactical Aircraft Maintenance Craftsman, Crew Chief, we are the owner of our assigned aircraft and coordinate with specialist and pilots to troubleshoot and maintain our aircrafts mission capabilities to meet all sorties, both combat training missions and real world critical missions. As Crew Chiefs, we “run the line” and are considered the “jack of all trades.” We are qualified in fields such as aircraft avionics, engine systems, secondary engine start systems, flight controls, pneumatic and hydraulic systems, emergency systems, etc. As The start of my duty day begins as the F-15 descends to Fresno, CA from their daily combat training missions. From there I organize and assign maintenance tasks to my fellow workers for the night. Our mission is to comply with technical orders to return the F-15’s to fully mission capable status with the 8-hour fix rate window. My team consists of highly skilled crew chiefs and specialist who are fully qualified in their respective fields. Working on the flight line, you never know what you’re going to get. This is the best part about my job. There are such variety of breaks within these aircrafts that you must use your full knowledge and understanding to troubleshoot the problems from systems to subsystems to sub-subsystems. Even though the hours may be long, working an average of 12 hours a day, there is no greater feeling than when the aircraft that you’ve put your blood and sweat into make the mission in order to protect the ones you love.”


Cheng Yang, 23
CTI Air Traffic Controller Degree from Tulsa Community College
FAA Academy Graduate Air Traffic Control Specialists.

“Enroute controllers are the controllers responsible for the long journey cross country separation/communication with the airplanes with the use of radar scopes. I am an enroute controller at Oakland Center currently still training in my area. My job is to prevent airplane collisions, organize and expedite the flow of air traffic. We are also required to provide support for national security and homeland defense.” Cheng competed among 30,000 other applicants in hopes to receive a spot on the selected 1,500 to go through the academy. He was chosen. “You only have once chance to go through the Academy when selected. So you there is definitely a lot of pressure to do your best since they have a 50 percent passing rate. While in the Academy, it was definitely one of the most challenging and rewarding experience ever. Expect to go through an emotional roller coaster ride while training at the Academy. I was transferred out to Oakland center in March 2018 after graduating from the Federal Aviation Administration academy in Oklahoma City.”


Christine Pat Vu, 32
Army Critical Care Flight Paramedic
Paramedic at Arnold Palmer Children Hospital Mobile ICU
Paramedic at Sunstar Paramedics

Vu was born and raised in France. She moved to the US with her family when she was 17 years old, knowing very little English. “Helping my mom raise my two little sisters was the best thing in my life. Family is everything. Wherever I go, everything I do leads me back home. I wanted to be a photographer in high school but I’ve found my calling in the medical field.” Vu’s job is to provided high quality pre-hospital care to the critically injured and ill, including assessment, triage, and treatment while being transported aboard Medevac Helicopter during peacetime and combat operations. “It is the hardest job I will ever love and most rewarding of my career. I do it for the mission… to save lives and improve patient outcome.” Vu has been a flight paramedic for 10 years. “I’m always eager to take on new challenges or projects and inadvertently overloaded myself with work at one time. I still got the job done but I was burnt out and sleep deprived. I learned to prioritize and delegate work.”


Thor Chasengnou, 29
Airframe and Powerplant Technician

Chasengou was born in and raised in Sacramento, CA. He has 3 brothers and 4 sisters. He has been working as an aircraft mechanic since 2009 when he was 19 years old. He started off working for a regional, then manufacturer and is now at a major. Chasengnou is currently working for the Eskimo in the state of WA as a Quality Assurance Inspector. “My job is to oversee technicians on certain jobs that requires inspection buyback (emergency equipment, engine components, flight control rigging etc). My old man was an auto mechanic for a long time. I remember him telling me that when he first immigrated to the US, he wanted to be an aircraft mechanic, but at the time his English was little to none. So coming from a family of auto mechanics I went for aviation. The hardest obstacle I faced was during technical school. I went to a tech school in a different state, away from all of my childhood friends and family. For the 2 years that I was there, it was hard not only because it was a place that I didn’t know anyone, but also because school was stressful. They were strict on how many hours in a day you could miss before you had to drop the class. But in all I’m glad for completing. It’s a rewarding field that has its ups and downs. I love traveling and working for a major airline helps a lot when you want to go on a mini vacation.”


Hunter Her, 28
2d Lt, prior enlisted Communication and Navigation Technician
BS in Computer Engineering from US Air Force Academy
Pilot, earning wings May 18th, 2018

Her is currently stationed at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He will be graduating and earning his wings on May 18th, 2018. He will be traveling to Charleston, South Carolina to fly the C-17 Globemaster. “I’m completely new to the aviation career and looking forward to what it has to offer. One of the hardest thing I have experienced in aviation is the strict procedures of military flying. Things that seems small, can have a catastrophic impact if overlooked. I love my family and strongly believe that hard work pays dividends. I’m fortunate enough to have a loving wife and 2 puppies.”


Mai Lee Chang
Master’s in Industrial and Systems Engineering from UW-Madison
B.S. in Engineering Mechanics and Astronautics
Certificate in International Engineering

“In my current job, I perform research and technology development in the fields of human-robot interaction and human-automation interaction. Understanding how humans can collaborate with robots and automation and how this affects the design of advanced automation and robotics systems is critical for our journey to Mars and other destinations. I am a part of the International Space Station (ISS) Flight Crew Integration team. I help ensure that science experiments meet human factors requirements to maximize the time available for astronauts to conduct science research onboard the ISS – a critical step towards our journey to Mars. In addition, I am a part of the Orion Human Engineering team helping ensure that human abilities and limitations are incorporated into the design of the Orion spacecraft. The team is working towards Orion’s first manned test flight – very exciting!” (From NASA’s Website)


Meng Yang, 28
Airframe and Powerplant Technician
Airframe and Powerplant Certificate

Yang was inspired by friends and family members who were already into aviation to join the field. He currently works as a line mechanic for an airline at the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport. “I moved states a couple of times to achieve my professional goals. I love working with my hand and like working on a team and in this case, it worked out perfectly. I’d like to think of aircraft mechanics as the backbone of the aviation field. As aircraft mechanic, you make sure the aircraft healthy. It’s hard to explain but you can compare the job to an auto mechanic with zero tolerance for mistakes. Mechanic makes sure the aircraft is flight ready and compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Airline mechanic main responsibilities are to make sure there are little or no maintenance delay to the aircraft flight schedule. The hardest part of the job varies from extreme weather condition to working in tight spaces. The most fun and enjoyable part of the aircraft mechanic job is troubleshooting, figuring out what was the cause of problem.” Yang is in his 6th year of being an aircraft mechanic.


Teng Yang, 35
Military Pilot: Captain, Airframe: C-130

“I’m currently a pilot in the 757th Airlift Squadron in Youngstown, Ohio. We fly the C-130 military aircraft with a mission of low level tactical air drops, short field take offs and landings, and perform aerial spray. As a pilot, my job is to properly control and maneuver the aircraft in all phases of flight as well as ensure the safety of all that’s on board. Going through the Air Force’s Undergraduate Pilot Training program (52 weeks) and C-130 training (24 weeks) was a fast pace and grueling process. It required 12-15 hours per day dedicating to honing your knowledge and skill in military aviation regulations, flying, and proper execution of military maneuvers. During this time, you are critique and evaluated daily to see if you have what it takes to be part of an elite group of aviators. The graduation rate averaged around 50%. I was selected and went through training when I was 27 years old, having already established a successful career outside of flying and with a young family. My wife and two small children (ages 2 years old and 6 months old) accompanied me as I was moved around through training in Mississippi, Texas, and Arkansas. Through the support of my wife who literally took care of everything regarding the home and children during that time, I was able to dedicate my time to training and passed each phase of the training. I grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota and graduated from the University of Minnesota-Crookston in 2006 with a Bachelor degree in Accounting and Business Management. While attending college, I enlisted in the Air Force Reserves. During college, I completed my civilian Private Pilot License and Instrument Rating, having flown about 160 hrs of flight training. Once I graduated, I was offered and accepted a position as an Accountant with the Department of Defense in Columbus, Ohio where my wife and I moved to in 2006. I continued to serve as an enlisted member in the Air Force Reserves during this time and was selected to be a commission officer and pilot in 2008. I completed my Masters of Business Administration in 2009 and then I temporarily left my accounting position to go on active duty for pilot training. I was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in 2010 and became a fully qualified C-130 pilot in 2012. Today, I live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife, three daughters, and one son. I work full time as a Supervisory Accountant for the Department of Defense and part time as a C-130 pilot for the Air Force Reserves.”


Soua Yang, 31
Aircraft Hydraulic Systems
CraftsmanUSAF/MN ANG
AS Aircraft Maintenance Technology from Community College of the Air Force
BS Aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-WW

“My name is Soua Yang, aka China, and I am married to my beautiful wife, Ariel.  We have one dog and a baby girl on the way.  Currently residing in Brooklyn Park, MN, but originally from Fitchburg, MA.  I am the second oldest of 10 kids and the oldest son in the family.  I served 6 years active-duty Air Force and going on 4 years with the Minnesota Air National Guard.  During my active-duty time I was stationed in Little Rock, AR, and Yokota AB, Japan.  I look forward to retiring from the military in the distant future. Aside from the military, I like being active with all kinds of sports and dabbling with singing and playing music.” Yang’s duty as a mechanic is to inspect, troubleshoot, repair, overhaul and test aircraft hydraulic systems and components including support equipment according to technical data. He is also responsible for maintaining proper inspection and maintenance records for aircrafts. He recommends methods to improve equipment, performance, and maintenance procedures. He handles hazardous materials and waste according to federal, state and local environmental standards. Lastly, is his duty is to train and supervise Airmen. “Like a lot of other kids I’ve always wanted to fly. Unfortunately this dream was crushed because of my poor depth perception. So, I chose the next best thing, aircraft maintenance! One obstacle I overcame in my career was being a young Airman on my first deployment to Afghanistan. Like many others I did not know what to expect and since I was not yet a fully qualified journeyman. This deployment was quite the awakening to the aircraft maintenance world. In the beginning I struggled because of the lack of experience especially on the days that my supervisor had off. I quickly befriended other maintainers to learn as much as I could about our aircrafts and although I made some mistakes along the way I learned from those mistakes and got my journeyman qualification. This deployment was a success and it’s my most memorable deployment ever. ” On August 19th, 2018, it will be Yang’s 10th anniversary since he became an aircraft mechanic.


Chong Vue, 28
Airframe and Powerplant Technician
Airframe and Powerplant Certificate

Vue works in a regional airline industry as an aircraft mechanic performing scheduled and unscheduled maintenance to make sure every plane is safe for flight. His duties include repair, remove and replace components as necessary. Vue attended the San Joaquin Valley College, Fresno, where he earned his Airframe and Powerplant certificate. “I’ve been in the aviation industry for almost 4 years. My passion for aviation started around the age of 5 or 6 when I used to live near an air force base by the name of Vandenburg Air Force Base in Southern California. My dad took me to an air show and that’s when it all began. Fascination began and interest peaked. Seeing missiles launch and fighter jets also fueled my passion for aviation. To start off my new career, I flew 2000 miles from California to Wisconsin with nothing but a backpack full of clothes. I had no family or friends, not even a place to live but that’s ok because it’s called “new chapter” for a reason right? All in all, I have no regrets getting into the aviation field. I love it. As they say, “choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life”


Sua Vang, 27
Flight Attendant/Stewardess for United Airlines

Sua Vang is a flight attendant based in San Francisco, California. “My number one priority is your safety during flight and also to make your flight enjoyable.”Vang was inspired to become a flight attendant to fulfill her father’s dream. “I am just that type of person that wants to make my parents proud in whatever I do. The reason I choose to become a flight attendants was to fulfill my dad’s dream. I have been an air stewardess/flight attendant for about 2 years now. As you all have heard, flight schools can either be hard to get accepted into or the training is just very intense. There is so much information to consume in such a short amount time. Training was so stressful that there were times I wanted to quit so bad, like three days before my graduation. Training was 6 weeks long, 6 days a week and the hours vary from 4am to 8pm. We were tested daily on at least 200 pages of reading.  I remember falling asleep with it every night because it was just so many pages. If you don’t pass the test, they will have to disqualify you and send you home. You will have to wait one whole year to re-apply. I am glad that I stuck to it and didn’t give up, because it has made me become a stronger and more independent woman. I just love the flexibility that this job has given me and it’s amazing how many days off I have. Even with its cons, I still wouldn’t trade this job for any others.”


Meng Yang, 38
Repair Station Niacc
Airframe and Powerplant Licensed
Composite certified from Abaris Composite Training
Paint Refinish training from Dupont
Wedge Ceritified
Associates of science in aviation
Reworking on NDT
Skywest Airlines

Meng Yang currently resides in Fresno, CA with his beautiful wife who is a nurse at VCH. He is a father of 4 children from 7 months to 7 years old.  Vang works in a composite shop in Fresno, CA for Skywest Airlines. He is also cross training in the engine shop. Yang has 17 years of experience in the aviation industry. “I have been in the aviation field since 1999. I started in a repair station overhauling starters, generators and fuel nozzles. Then I got into the regional airline “Skywest” in Palm Springs and finally back to Fresno.I have always been fascinated by aviation and dreamed the whole NASA scene. I also had an uncle who was working for United Airlines that had inspired me of a lavish lifestyle and traveling the world.” Work hours and schedules are harsh in the airline industry. “I made a lot of sacrifices. I worked long nights when it came down to events and building up time just to enjoy a weekend off with family and friends. When I first started there were very few Hmong persons in the industry that I knew of. The first Hmong person that joined the Fresno maintenance team after me was not until another five years. Now, there are a total of five of us with two others that have transferred out. I’ve seen how the field has changed from when I started to how it is now.”


Angela Xiong, 17
Duncan Polytechnical High School Senoir
Recipient of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp’s Scholarship Award
Future training for Pilot License

Angela Xiong is a soon to be senior at Fresno’s Duncan Polytechnical High School. She has been in the AFJRTOC program for 3 years, going onto 4 years. ““Sky’s the limit” is what inspired me into the aviation field. I believe thinking about how people were able to put a machine in the air and having it work, is quite fascinating. Watching from the ground and up to the sky makes me interested in a career of aviation. I believe the biggest obstacle I’ve overcame while in school was peer pressure. Not that they pressured me to take the opportunities, but that they saw me as a common individual and that wasn’t the way I saw myself. I wanted to prove them that I had potential and that I’m capable of doing things just as great as others.” Xiong recently received a scholarship worth more than $20,000 from the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps and she was only one of the five students to receive this scholarship. Xiong will be attending a summer flight academy with the opportunity to earn her pilot license.


Meng Lor

Meng Lor currently works for one of the greatest commercial airlines, Southwest Airline based in Denver, CO. I am a Ramp Agent. Underrated but I take pride in my work from safely marshalling in the Boeings 737-700s & 800s, loading/unloading bags with the upmost care, and pushbacks. I am also the last set of eyes of inspection prior to takeoff to make sure there are no defects on our planes off my gate. I have no aviation background but I’ve always been inspired by the stories I’ve heard working for the airlines. Before this, I spent close to a decade assembling military vehicles such as the new JLTVs, MATVs, and HEMITTs through Oshkosh Defence in Oshkosh Defense.  Never has the world felt so close and within grasp thanks to this job and the flexibility that I have.  I still hope to become a Flight Attendant in the very near future with Southwest.


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Youa Xiong

Youa Xiong

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