Sunday, May 24, 2009


(This article is posted here with permission from the writer, Tan Sri Ani Arope.)

I have been asked many times why I took up flying at this stage of my life. Wasn’t there a more sedate way to spend one’s retirement than to go in for something that demanded one’s full attention to master a potentially lethal set of circumstances? Well meaning friends point out that if I were adrift in the ocean, the chances of being picked up was a real possibility. Or if I were to go off on a jungle track and got lost a search and rescue team could still go searching for me.

But if something untoward happened in the cockpit whilst I was up in the air no rescue party could drop in to give me a hand. I don’t know about being cast adrift in the ocean or getting lost in the jungle. I have had my share of excitement up in the clouds and always there was a reassuring voice coming from the tower or another flyer who happened to be within radio range to give me help. I tell my well wishing friends that the most dangerous part of flying, and this is being corroborated by statistical figures, is the drive from the house to the airfield!

Flying is a great sport especially for those who want a release from their high pressure jobs. The total immersion it demands helps soak off the cares of the day. From start-up to shut-down, the time is spent on aviating, navigating and communicating. At the end of the flight, there is this sense of personal satisfaction, a useful work well accomplished and time well spent.

Those who fly enjoy the thrill of meeting up with the challenges of managing risks and equipment involved to bring themselves and their craft back to terra firma. More mid-level and top executives in the private and public sectors should consider giving it a go. If dummies like me could take to the skies at this late stage in life, there is no reason why others can’t.


For the youngsters, it is good discipline. It trains leadership and responsibility. When one of my children (a hyperactive kid) was at college, how was I to guide her 8000 miles away? I encouraged her to take up flying as one of her electives, though she was majoring in Microbiology. Flying was done on Saturdays at eight in the mornings. When students turned up blurry eyed and looking under the weather, they were sent back to their dorms. So in wanting to fly there couldn’t be late Friday nights or attending boisterous student parties.

And what was more the students that took flying were the more responsible types and were a lot different from the ultra ‘holier than thou’ groups of all denominations that were rampant on the campuses then. In short if you have an ultra super active child, one way to hive off that extra energy is to channel him/her to take up flying. Under their instructor they develop discipline, leadership and responsibility. They get to meet up with flyers of different age groups and professional interests. This is good for them in their formative stage of their development.


When I first received my Private Pilots’ Licence (PPL) and was able to wander off on my own, I undertook to visit most of the major airports on the East and West Coast of the Peninsular. Every airport has its own peculiarities. Coming in to land in Kota Baru, you would be warned to beware of low flying kites in the vicinity. In Langkawi, as you come in for a touchdown, a gust of wind might throw you off the center line. You would have to crab in and use the opposite rudder with a tad of power to land on one main wheel first before settling on the other.

Flying into Tioman, your circuit level is 800 feet and right hand down wind. Without being able to see the airfield which is supposed to run parallel to your flight on the right you take your cue from the checker board on the hill to make a descending right turn to base. At 600 feet you make your final approach to land. Once cleared, you give it full flaps, slow down the plane to its appropriate speed, trim and aim for the landing point.

As the ground rushes to meet you and the width of the airfield fills your windscreen, you pull up on the yoke and keep the plane flying straight and level and shifting your gaze to the far end of the airfield. As the plane sinks, you pull back on the yoke just enough to keep it flying straight with the nose pointing a little up. As the main wheels touch ground, you cut power and take the flaps off. You slow down by raising the plane’s nose and touching the breaks. You get a tremendous satisfaction when you call Tower to say ‘Bravo Delta Bravo, shutting down. Good day and thank you’. Your flying is not over until the engine is shut down, master switch is off and chocks are put in the front wheel.


There is no end to the number of different makes and models of aircraft one might eventually fly. I must admit that I have a fondness for flying different models of single engine planes. I started off with the Cessna 172, a very forgiving plane. then spent some time on the Eagle 150, a stick and rudder plane with power control on the left – pretty nippy and responsive. I had an opportunity to fly the MD3, a Malaysian manufactured plane under licensed from the Swiss. When I was visiting Italy, I had the occasion to fly the Piagio 2 Seater Trainer. Now I fly regularly on the Piper Warrior.

A Piper Warrior


Flying sharpens my mental faculties. It gives me added motivation to keep healthy as I have to appear for my medical every six months to keep my license current. So I have to watch my diet, keep myself physically fit with regular exercises. I socialize, meeting with fellow flyers ranging from 18 years to their late fifties. I get to talk to pilots and controllers whom I don’t get a chance to meet and building a sort of camaraderie up in the air.

Finally one cannot imagine the satisfaction of watching the country side roll under your wings. The perspective from on high is both powerful and humbling. The puny efforts of man to alter the landscape fade into insignificance under the leveling press of altitude. In this way, the experience of flying is reward enough.

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