Captain Antonija Trupinić: A Military Pilot Who Knows No Fear

Total Croatia News

March 19, 2020 – Meet the woman who played with dolls, just like every other little girl, but became a military pilot, handling an American helicopter Bell 206 B JetRanger. TCN’s Janja Sestak meets military pilot Antonija Trupinić.

She wanted to become a singer, an actress, or a ballerina, and those were professions that people proposed to her. In elementary school, she found interest in everything: folklore, choir, recitation, acting. All of that was assuming that Antonija was made for the social type of profession. 

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Ana Sesto

Once she said to her mother, who is a nurse: ”Mum, I want to attend the school that lasts the longest,” and her mother told her, “Then enroll at the medical faculty.” 

But in the second year of high school, the social side of Antonija prevailed once more. She was so amazed by her professor of the Croatian language that she thought that had to be her choice. 

“She used to come to our class, reciting “Smrt Smail-age Čengića,” off by heart. I said to myself: ”That’s it, I want to be smart like her. I was always admiring wise women who leave a mark in the world as they go through life.”

But one day, Antonija noticed a poster of MORH in the school with the following words: “Accept the challenge, become a military pilot.”

“When you’re 17, you think that you’re the smartest living being alive. As I was writing for the school newspaper and missed one deadline, one of my professors said to me: ”You will never achieve something nor graduate from college because you know nothing about responsibility.”

And as I was standing right in front of that poster, I pointed to it and said rebelliously: “I will become a military pilot.” 

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Dino Svorcina

As integrity was always something she held onto, Antonija couldn’t just go against her own words. She started thinking seriously about that. She applied to college, was invited to take a medical examination, and found out that she was one of the eight people who passed… just eight people among 1200 people who applied. 

“Although all of my previous activities have had nothing to do with my current profession, there were some connections. When I was taking my medical examination, I was asked to hold my breath for as long as I can. As I was in choir, I trained my diaphragm in such a way that some time without taking a breath isn’t a big deal.”

Before a person enrolls in college, they need to pass the flight screening. This course lasts one month, requires learning about flying and testing if you can bear the flight. If you learn how to operate an airplane, then you’re ready. If a flight simulator pops out in your head, you’re wrong. They operate real aircraft. 

The explanation is more than clear; if you aren’t put in the actual situation, you won’t know how to react when you do find yourself in it.

Antonija shared her classroom back in high school with 30 girls, and then she was alone among seven males. That situation showed her that there is no stronger or weaker sex. There are stronger or weaker women, as well as stronger or weaker men.

The fact that she was the only woman among seven men didn’t bother her at all. “If I’m here, that means I’m equally as good as they are.”

During her schooling, she was so thrilled with her professors that, after she graduated from college, she enrolled to become a flight instructor. 

“That was the moment when I realised that smart people are the ones who amaze me. There was no question they didn’t know how to answer, so I wanted to be just like them, I wanted to have my cadets and teach them about flying.”

But just one year after she graduated, she fell off a scooter and broke her pelvis in four places, which for the first time in her life, made her think about her body. “You can change your city, your car, you can change almost whatever you want, but your body goes with you. Nobody cares about your body as much as you should.”

But giving up was never an option. “People have recovered from much worse, why wouldn’t I do the same? I approached my injury very rationally and, regardless of the doctor’s prognoses, which weren’t the brightest, I decided to be me once again. Antonija, who doesn’t know an alternative. So I started training in fitness and bodybuilding and, as I always wanted more, in the end, I finished with more than excellent results.”

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After she recovered from her pelvic injury, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a flight instructor. Her regular workday starts at 07:00. Firstly, she, along with her students, examine the questions on things they are going to do that day in the classroom.

After that, the flight follows. Two hours of flying, two hours of analysing. At 13:00, lunchtime begins, and parallel to that, she prepares for another lecture with her students for the next day. Her workday lasts eight hours, and there is no idling, no random “let’s grab a coffee” scenarios. She knows precisely what she has to do at that exact moment. 

“If you consider that I have two cadets for two years, it’s clear that we become friends. And I have to say, there is no greater joy and feeling of pride than when your cadets graduate and become lieutenants. Watching them earn their wings and knowing that you played the most significant role in that process is something precious.”

Just how much she loves her job is highlighted by the fact she also completed her training as a test pilot. When something has been changed inside of a helicopter, she goes on the first flight and checks if every parameter works well. She has never considered becoming a civil pilot. “Being a military pilot gives me much more freedom and adrenaline than being a civil pilot would.” 

She currently flies in an American helicopter Bell 206 B JetRanger, which can serve for pilot training, VIP transport, reconnaissance, and easier medical transport. 

When asked about the most stressful thing about her job, she didn’t know the answer. “We’re so well trained that we’re always ready for B, C, or plan D if A doesn’t work. We train our students to trust that machine, and themselves.”

Then Antonija continued in a relaxed tone: “Once, the back door of the helicopter opened, but I just continued to fly. There was nothing to panic about. Sometimes I fly without doors because of filming or something. That really isn’t a problem for me.”

“People assume that I have no fear of heights, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable looking down from a tall building. When I’m in a helicopter, there is something beneath me, so I feel safe.”

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Ana Sesto

But there is something she isn’t enthusiastic about: “One of the things I wouldn’t do voluntarily anymore is a parachute jump. When I first had to jump from a plane 800 meters above the ground, I was excited and wanted to be first. The second time, I knew what could happen, how the wind can change your direction, so I said, ”You can go first, thank you.”

In the military, there is no difference between females and males, nor did she ever notice discrimination in the army. “We teach our students in a way that they must know all things equally.” But, outside of the army, people used to remain silent after she answered their questions about what she does for a living. “They don’t know what to say to me, so they change the subject.” 

How much Antonija enjoys what she is doing, it proved best by this sentence: “Believe me, every pilot would like to fly for the rest of their life if there was such a thing.”

As she said, baby Antonija would not have believed that adult Anotnija became all that she did. “But one thing for sure, I would always advise her: Never stop being curious. And pay more attention to math and physics lectures. You’ll need that one day.”

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