Up in the air

I turned 28 yesterday. In previous years, whenever I turn a year older I would do a blog entry to recap everything I did in the past year. This year though when I look back at what I’ve done… I realize that I’ve done a lot from a business point of view. But on a personal point of view… I haven’t actually done much.

I think that’s something a lot of us forget sometimes. We’re too busy working in our lives trying to achieve our career dreams that we forget about what we really want in life.

This is the one thing I learned from Richard Garriott, the very successful entrepreneur who invented games like Ultima back in the 90s. That life is about acquiring new experiences and money… is an enabler of that. For example, lots of us want to travel. Traveling is an experience and money enables that. For me though I guess I travel so much for work the experiences I look for are a little different. Sometimes a little bit dangerous… like what Shorty gave me for my birthday yesterday.

As we were walking down to my car at 10AM, I asked her “Where we going?”. She refused to tell me. Instead she said “I drive”.

So for the whole 30 minute car ride I kept trying to guess where she was taking me to but she refused to tell me anything except for “It’s something that you would never buy yourself”. When we reached this road though… I kinda realized what I was going for.


If you don’t recognize that road, it’s the road to Subang airport. One of the things I always said I wanted to do was a “Pilot for a day” program where they would train you a little bit about how to fly a plane and let you actually fly one (with a qualified pilot sitting next to you doing the take-off, landing and all the hard stuff). I just never did it because I wanted to save money this year. You know… since we’re getting married and all.

When I first realized what we were going for I got really excited. Then the reality sunk in a little as I imagined myself flying a small propeller plane. Then fear began to sink in… both for my safety and both for the lecture I was going to get from my parents for doing “dangerous” things like this. This was something I would never do years ago… but I don’t know. As I get older and do more and more things in life, I find myself wanting to do more things that I had never done before. So my curiousity got the better of me… and I went for it… (and decided not to tell my parents about it until after I landed).

After meeting the pilot and going through a briefing about how a plane works and all, we went to our plane which was a small 2-seater propeller plane.


The pilot then taught me how to do some routine checks to make sure that everything was okay… before we flew. Then we all got into the cockpit (with Shorty sitting behind). In front of me was all these dials.


The pilot ran through everything with me. How to read each dial, how to control the plane and everything. The dashboard for the dials and control was so big that all I could really see from the cockpit was this.


Then he turned on the plane engine and asked me to taxi the plane on the runway. When the plane is on the ground, the steering doesn’t work. The way to taxi it to the runway is by using the rudder which is controlled by two foot pedals below. I brought the plane to the runway (with his help to make sure I didn’t veer off into the grass or something) and he did the take-off.

Oh yeah forgot to mention that. The pilot before told me that he would do everything for the take-off and landing… because those are the hard parts that you need a trained pilot to do. So I asked him what almost anybody would have asked him

“What if we’re up in the air and you get a heart attack or you pass out or something. How do we land?”.

He laughed and said “Okok fair question!”. Then he went on to explain that I can just radio to the control tower and ask them for help on how to land the plane. He also said not to worry… that if anything happened to the plane in mid-air, we can land either on the highways OR on any of the many golf courses we have in Klang Valley.


So off we went. Our plane took off and once we were 1000ft in the air, the pilot let me take control of the plane. I could bank, turn here and there, pull up or down… but for most of it I was awed by the view of KL I had never in my life seen before.


In one view we could see KLCC all the way to the Curve. We could see all the places that we were so familiar with, places that we hung out at during weekends, the offices we worked in. Everything looked so small from up there. It gave me an odd feeling that KL isn’t really as big as I thought it was… and like I was living the past few years of my life in this little “Polly Pocket”.

Here are the few things I learned about flying:

1) There is a lot of air traffic above us in the city that we don’t realize. When we were up in the air we had to constantly keep in touch with the control tower that will coordinate the air traffic. So if a helicopter was flying in our area they would tell us to fly higher and the helicopter to fly lower or vice versa.

2) The pilot’s job is as much out of the plane as it is in the plane. What I mean is that before a flight, they have to prepare lots of things. They can’t just get into a plane now and fly anywhere they want. They have to submit a flight plan to the control tower to tell the control tower where they will be flying to and around what time and they have to stick to it. They can’t turn back. We flew around the Petronas Twin Towers twice and then I asked the pilot if we could make one more round and he said we can’t… because it wasn’t in his flight plan.

3) The small plane I was flying would fly around 1,500 feet. The passenger jets that we fly like Air Asia or MAS on the other hand fly at 30,000 feet. They fly higher because up there there is less density so the plane needs to burn less fuel ie it’s more economical. They fly higher also so that the pilots have more time to react if anything happens.

We flew around for an hour. With Shorty in the back seat with this camera on her cap… so that she could record the experience.


But by the end of the hour, Shorty was starting to feel a bit air sick so we flew back to Subang and the pilot to us in for a really nice landing. Right after I landed I gave my mum a call and told her what I did. As expected, both Mum and Dad were not pleased. Told me how I shouldn’t do dangerous things like that and that as I grow older I will learn how to value life more etc etc. I thought that well… if there was any point in my life that I would do something like that. It would be now.

Nevertheless, it was an awesome experience, being able to fly a plane. I tweeted about it and some of my followers on Twitter actually said they saw my plane flying around Bandar Utama at around lunch time… which was when I was in the air. Small world indeed!


After the experience we were all so excited we just went back home and took a nap. Then Shorty had planned a surprise dinner for me with some Nuffies and close friends. Birthdays are all about spending it with people who matter to you.




Thanks for the wonderful birthday Shorty and friends! It feels old to be 28… but it’s nice to know I have another experience to start my 28th year on Earth with.


Next experience for the year … getting married.

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