03 April 2009

So You Wanna Be A Pilot? : The Road Not Taken

By Wan Siong

Note from Blog Team: We just got connection in Perth. You all really didin’t think we would forget all of you would we? Congratulations Benjamin Siew for actually finding ‘us’.

Actually, choosing a career is never a straight forward process.
It makes no difference if you are a fresh SPM leaver, or a mid-twenties adult going through your first mid-life crisis, or even a 30 plus married man who just got laid off from your job due to the recession.Some people might get it right the first time, some people might only get it right after a few rounds of failure and tests, some people on the other hand might just find the easy way out and just give up.

I remember when I was in my primary school, it was compulsory for everyone to tell our teacher at least 3 different kinds of occupation we would like to be in the future, every year from standard 4 to standard 6. I too, wasn’t spared.
During Standard 4, the occupations I gave were, a computer teacher, a policeman, and a fireman. Not too long after that, during Standard 5, it was a chemist, an inventor, and a programmer.
Came Form 4 in my secondary school SMK Maxwell, my headmaster stepped into my class and ask each and every student what do we want to be in the future after our SPM.
And by that time, I wanted to be a businessman.
So as time went by, after I got my SPM results, I spotted an advertisement in The Star Newspaper, by our national carrier.The career that really caught my attention was the hiring of “Cadet Pilot”.
That was when it all really started.
Time has allowed me to grow and discover myself.
Instead of people asking me what I wanted to be before, I now know what I wanted.

And so I took the advertisement and went back home, told my parents about the career that I’m really interested in.
I was like this little kid once over again, raving to my parents on how cool it is to fly a plane, go to places that I’ve never been before, see how snow looks like during winter and etc.
But as soon as I was done talking, my dad said to me: “Son, being a pilot is not a real job. Nobody really gets paid for driving people around. I certainly didn’t ask you to pay me for driving to your tuition classes, right? Besides, it’s a risky job and you won’t have a normal family life.”
My mom sitting next to my dad also nodded.
Naturally, as a teenager, I fought and argue with them the whole night. I was arguing with them on why they can’t allow me to choose what I really wanted. And no matter what I told them, it was futile. The only reply that I got from them was “As long you’re under this roof, you will listen to what we say.”
Of course, it was an unfair fight. The feeling, it was just tearing me inside out. I was in a sober mood for a few days when my mum finally came to me and said, “Why not you try to apply for their Trainee Aircraft Maintenance Engineer, since after all, it’s still an aircraft you get to work on.”
And so I did.
I let that opportunity to slip pass in preference of my parent.
End of story.
THE END.

“No?!?!”
Is that what you guys are thinking?
“This can’t be the ending!”
Well, you’re right, so read on…

You see, like I’ve mentioned to you guys earlier, choosing a career is never a straight forward process.
I went for the test, interview and what not, got the job, and of course, my parents were the proudest person in the world.
Part of me was excited that I got the job too as I’m now in the aviation industry, but part of me knew that I didn’t get what I wanted and might regret it someday.
But anything about aircraft was just cool.
The size, the power, and the fact that it can actually fly, makes me wonder in awe!
And so, I was placed into training in Malaysian Institute of Aviation Technology for two years, got all the necessary basic knowledge.
And when the time came, it was 2007; I finally had to report back to Subang Airport as a full-time “Am Eh As” employee to further my training.
I had faced one of my worst nightmare.
Where unlike my senior batches, my batch wasn’t given the liberty of choice, whether to be in an electrical trait or mechanical trait.
I wanted to work in the electrical trait as that was my preference when I first joined this engineering programme..
My heart sank. I wanted to fight back with them, but soon realized that I was in no position to do so being a trainee. I had no union to fight for me.

Going home smelling like sweat and grease is a common thing.
The burning sensation from Skydrol hydraulic fluid is no longer a strange feeling.
Getting carcinogenic material like Mastinox on your skin is a no laughing matter.
6 months into the on-job-training, I knew I’ve made a mistake by joining this career.
But what I really found out was not about getting the trait I wanted, nor being labelled as a “grease monkey”, but the burning desire to be an airliner P-I-L-O-T that is growing fonder inside me! Period. I’ve never felt so sure about anything else in my life!

And this time around, I don’t want to make any mistakes again like I previously did.
And since I’m now in the aviation industry, I took the effort and time to do my research, find every opportunity to sit in the jump seat to see how real pilot flies, worked in KLIA to oversee the entire operations, learnt how to fly with Microsoft Flight Simulator, talk to real life pilots about the balance of life and work, took part in a flight simulator competition in MATTA fair and won, and also of course, finding for opportunity to join a cadetship.
I’ve even tried my luck to apply for Singapore Airlines cadet pilot programme, only to get booted out because I do not meet their requirement of having a minimum qualification of a STPM.

Again, I felt like the world is all against me.
But I was so determined to get out of this engineering programme to achieve my own dream of becoming a pilot.
Many people I knew who actually found the comfort zone in where they are now and no longer wish to fight for what they used to believe.
I on the other hand, discussed about my decision with my parents and laid out my cards to them.
I told them how I felt and what I really wanted.
Of course they weren’t pleased at first, but with much persuasive talking that I’ve developed over the years and also facts laid out on the table, they agreed to my views.
So much so that when friends or pilot-wannabes asks me how do I really know that I wanted to be a pilot, I usually give them 6 scenarios to identify yourself as a person who is on the right path to be a pilot.

1 You own a joystick and Microsoft Flight Simulator.

“Vee one, Rotate, Vee two…”

2 You own a big wallpaper of aircrafts in your bedroom.

A Boeing 747

3 You think that the best part of your Bali trip is on the plane and not the beach.

“I’m leaving, on a jet plane.”

4 You think that aircraft food is tastier than your mum’s food.

“Come come try my soup!”

5 You’ll pretend to make pilot announcement instead of singing when you are taking your shower.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We are now cruising at……….”

6 You’ll be sudden good friend to those who are working in airlines.

Eh robin, can borrow your contacts ah?

Jokes aside, when I had all my green lights and was planning for the best time to make the move, but guess what?
FUEL PRICE WENT CRAZILY HIGH AND THEN RECESSION CAME!
Many airlines went and file for bankruptcy.
Some airlines asked their staff to go on unpaid leave.
And I thought to myself that my plans have to be deferred once again.

But as when opportunity was at its bleakest, I’ve gotten my big break.
I’m a fan of Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes.
I in fact, bought the domain name “www.tonyfernandes.com.my” even before he had his personal blog in hopes that I would actually get his attention and perhaps talk to me and ask me why I bought his name. (I hope I did get your attention now… Hahahahaha…)
Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes was the inspiration that I got from to want to make drastic changes to my life. Even when all odds are against you.
Anyhow, my real big break came when Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes actually announced that AirAsia is not only planning to take in new cadets this year, but also put up a challenge to everyone in Malaysia to blog about why one want to be a pilot, in return for a chance to be one of the 10 to be selected to join their cadetship.

SO SERIOUSLY, WHY DO I WANNA BE A PILOT?

Ladies and gentlemen.
My name is Siew Wan Siong.
Standing in at 182cm and 22 of age.
So all the life story that I’ve mentioned above boils down to a few things.
To prove to myself and everyone on this planet that it’s never too late to admit your mistakes and change your life(Reminds me of President Obama’s campaign slogan “The Change We Need”).
To understand that it’s never too late to learn something new and be good at it.
To tell myself and everyone else that the world is listening to you even if you are just one person.

And so here I am.
I have the perseverance.
I have the guts.
And if there’s someone who doesn’t take NO for an answer, that’s me.
If there’s someone who still dares to dream despite all old, that’s me.
And if there’s someone who could make me believe that the unbelievable believable, that’s AirAsia.

P/s : Dear friends, if you have the 6 symptoms like I’ve suggested to you earlier, I suggest you to take part in this AirAsia’s “So You Wanna Be A Pilot” competition and share your dreams with us.

  • Wan Siong

    Hi Blog Team,

    A big thank you for picking me as one of the short-listed candidates!
    And especially to “us”, thank you for coming up with such a brilliant competition to give everyone an opportunity to fight for what we believe! Without your fight too, candidates like me won’t have this battle. =)

    To all the rest, do your best and believe in what you are capable of. Like I said earlier, you might be just one person, but the world is listening to you.
    Good luck!

    Benjamin Siew Wan Siong

  • Hare

    wow Wan Siong.. congrats man!!

    haha i think you can publish this post to your own blog too^^

  • Wan Siong

    Hare,

    Haha..
    Thanks for your wishes man..
    Really appreciated it..
    You’re one of the few really early ones to read my post, hoped it’ll get you a head start with your post! =)
    Good luck and all the best..

    Benjamin Siew Wan Siong

  • Low

    yo, what’s your nick at FD? Congrats, let’s all go mamak n study yay

  • Hare

    It’s already in your Tony website, why not link it to your other blogspot as well, huh….!!!!

  • Lee

    Congrats !!! your blog post is really amazing !!! you really made me wonder if you are a professional blogger ~ ha ~ Hope to have the chance to work together ~

  • AirAsia Blog Team

    Benjamin Siew, for being the first to notice ‘us’ and for following ‘us’, you have made a strong point.

  • Wan Siong

    Low,
    I’ve left a comment there. Check it out. ;)

    Hare,
    Haha.. I think I prefer to keep my personal blog the way it is now – personal.

    Lee,
    I’m no professional blogger. I don’t get much revenue out from my blogging activities. It’s just an interest and hobby that I’ve developed over the years and came to like. Anyway, I’m glad that you liked my post. They’re nonetheless, my real life experience. Cheers..

    Benjamin Siew Wan Siong

  • Wan Siong

    AirAsia Blog Team,

    I hope I did made a lasting impression. The internet is a very powerful tool if used properly to our advantage. And I guess no one can be alone in whatever endeavour we are planning to go through. Hence, I hope we would forge an interdependent relation to help achieve each other’s goal. Cheers…

    Benjamin Siew Wan Siong

  • Putri Diyana

    And that is why I tell people, there’s no such thing as “I want to be either a Pilot or LAE, as long as I’m near aircrafts” because it’s two very different job. You have to choose. Or you’ll regret.

    Congrats on your achievement.

    Diyana the TAME.

  • Dinagaran

    WOW OF ALL POST I FIND YOURS MOST APPEALING KUDOS TO THAT!!!
    IF I HAD TO VOTE U HAVE MINE CHEERS =)

  • Daphne Siew Li

    Hey!
    congrats!!!
    ur entry is very “catchy”..attracts ppl to continue to read on :)

    I checked this site everyday for updates and in the afternoon, there was no updates on shortlisted candidates so i thought none for now till i checked back now :)

  • Wan Siong

    Putri Diyana,
    Spot on Diyana! But then again, different people come from different family background. Some people get their freedom of choice at a young age, and some people have to put up a real good fight before they can get what they want in life. I’m sure I can write a whole blog entry about “Pilot VS TAME” if I continue typing, so I’m just going to stop here. =P

    Dinagaran,
    That’s a very nice of you Dina for your compliments… I really appreciate them. People like you gets me going in life, and achieving everything people thought was just a mere dream. So thank you Dina!! =)

    Daphne Siew Li,
    Haha.. I was worried that you guys will get agitated while reading such a long long entry. So I had to add in some entertainment into it to get all my points across.. Hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed composing it.

    Benjamin Siew Wan Siong

  • Chee Keong

    i cant agree more with daphne and dinagaran..

    it is definitely not lengthy, but its quality!

    congrats man!!!
    welcome to the shortlisted family!!
    its expanding fast, just like Air Asia..!

    anyway, my nick in FD is soon90

  • Kien Fui

    your blog just makes me keep going on reading unstopable…. it’s should be complete with a good ending….
    congrats wan siong!!!!

  • Wan Siong

    Chee Keong,
    Thanks for all the compliments! Anyway, click around FD and you’ll find me eventually. =)

    Kien Fui,
    Haha.. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. Well, as for the good ending, it’s entirely up to the Team who organized this competition for now. By then, you guys would have to read a blog entry that so long, that I need to start publishing it into a hardcover book. Hahahaha….

    Benjamin Siew Wan Siong

  • Mohd Fakhruddin

    1 thing I really reallyyy like about this post is the picture of my cadetship batchmate Robin…hahaha…funny pose mannn…anyway good post bro…good luck on your quest…hope u could join us.

  • Wan Siong

    M. Fakhruddin,
    Haha.. It’s a small world after all eh? Thanks for your blessing. I do hope I can join you guys there at Kelantan. Anyway, send my regards to Robin for me ya. =)

    Benjamin Siew Wan Siong

  • A

    actually it does make a diff if u r a fresh spm school leaver.. :)

  • Daphne Siew Li

    what u guys talking? what FD? xD

  • Mohd Redzuan

    sorry i’m not much to write in bahasa english..if u don’t mind, can i make my comment in bahasa melayu….
    actualy saya amat teruja membaca artikal di atas…apabila saya membaca, berbagai perasaan yang timbul dalam diri saya..rasa teruja, gembira, bersemangat dan sedih..sedih sebab saya tidak dapat mencapai cita-cita saya untuk menjadi seorang pilot..untuk pengetahuan saudara, dari kecil lagi saya sangat berminat untuk menjadi pilot..pilot segak, kemas, berpesonaliti….tapi di sebabkan saya tidak pandai dalam pelajaran saya tidak dapat memasuki mana-mana universiti untuk menyambung cita-cita untuk menjadi seorang pilot..harapan saya terkubur..ingin menyambung pelajaran di IPTS, tetapi tak mampu..dengan berkat usaha untuk mencari pekerjaan, saya akhirnya berpeluang melanjutkan pelajaran di kolej pembentu perubatan dan bejaya menamatkan pengajian dengan segulung diploma pembantu perubatan dan kini memegang jawatan sebagai penolong pegawai perubatan dan bertugas di hospital batu gajah perak…sehingga kini saya masih mencari peluang bagaimana saya dapat menjadi seorang pilot…baru-baru ini, saya ada pergi ke kota kinabalu bersama penerbangan Air Asia…apabila terlihat pilot-pilot di sana,saya amat sedih kerana tidak dapat menjadi seorang pilot..saudar, saya ingin bertanyakan kepada saudara..tiadakah akedemi untuk menjadi pilot…?
    tahniah kepada anda……..

    mohd redzuan zakri @ riez

  • Wan Siong

    Anonymous,
    If you think that it has a difference, make full use of it. Don’t let the it slip by. As the same opportunity does come knocking on the door twice.

    Daphne Siew Li,
    FD is http://www.flydamnit.com. It’s a forum for people like us who are really interested in the aviation field.

    M. Redzuan,
    This is the purpose of why AirAsia is organizing such a competition. To give those people like you and me who didn’t get the 1st hand opportunity to take up a piloting career for whatever reasons. So do share with us your story and perhaps, hopefully, you’ll have a story to tell that is so amazing that AirAsia cannot pass this competition without giving you a spot. By the way, you are allowed to blog in Bahasa, so why not give it a try? Never try, never know. All the best.

    Benjamin Siew Wan Siong

  • Low

    Daphne : FD = http://www.flydamnit.com

    forum for us to discuss how to get into pilot dreams.

  • Dominic

    Nice post. Keep your energy positive. Good Luck!

  • Chee Keong

    mohd redzuan,

    there are academy where pilots are trained…
    actually there are quite a number of academies in Malaysia which offer the courses to obtain all the necessary licences to become a commercial pilot..

    never give up on ur dreams!!remember, NEVER!
    now, enjoy your job, and why not try sending in a post of urs into the blog, and well, if u get lucky, u may get it..

    best of luck bro!

    Regards,
    CK

  • Daphne Siew Li

    Oh ok -_-”
    i thought something else xD

  • Wan Siong

    Daphne Siew Li,
    Hey girl, come join us in FD. All of us are waiting for you there for an open discussion.

    Dominic,
    Hey, thank you for your wishes. I’ll do my best alright. =)

  • Chee Keong

    daphne, FD is Flydamnit..

    http://www.flydamnit.com

    see u there..

  • Wai Weng

    Congrat Wan Siong…

    Agree with you on the 6 symptoms of pilot-wannabe…Hehe

  • Wan Siong

    I had more then 6 actually, but too bad AirAsia’s blog cannot cater for another 2 more extra photos. By the way, out of the 6, which one do you “suffer” from? Hahaha..

    Benjamin Siew Wan Siong

  • Haansel Ananth

    Congrats Wan Siong.Thanks for the comment and also all the best for the next level.I too have more then 6 symtoms of pilot-wannabe.:D

    Regards,
    Haansel.

  • Wan Siong

    Haansel,
    Your name reminds me of Hans Solo from Star Wars..
    Hahaha…
    Anyway, you’re welcomed with the comments.
    Wish you all the best and more surprises to come!
    =)

    Benjamin Siew Wan Siong

  • Saravanan

    Of the many posts shortlisted… I am very much impressed with yours.

    You not only have the flair of setting things straight while highlighting your qualities but also very tacky way of writing that interests every reader.

    You my friend… hav the ability to dream and beyond that the heart to share.

    I salute you!!!

  • Wan Siong

    Saravanan,
    Whoa~~
    Thanks for such a magnificent comment.
    I sincerely am happy that my views and knowledge are being appreciated.
    Thank you once again for making my day.

    Benjamin Siew Wan Siong