Guide to the skies

A new book by a for­mer com­mer­cial air­line pi­lot pro­vides read­ers with a glimpse of life in the cock­pit.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By CHESTER CHIN star2@thes­

CALL it deliberate cheek, but there’s prob­a­bly no bet­ter way to start off a book about the avi­a­tion in­dus­try than to ref­er­ence a rather sen­sual scene be­tween a pi­lot and flight stew­ardess from a Hol­ly­wood movie.

In Cap­tain Lim Khoy Hing’s de­but book, Life In The Skies, the man de­cided to use that par­tic­u­lar scene from the 2012 block­buster film Flight to il­lus­trate and de­bunk one of the big­gest mis­con­cep­tions air­line pi­lots face through­out their ca­reer.

“There’s this myth that all pi­lots are very pro­mis­cu­ous and that movie doesn’t re­ally il­lus­trate a very re­al­is­tic pic­ture. I’ve been mar­ried for 45 years. I’m still with my wife and we’re very happy,” says the 67-year-old ex-pi­lot with a laugh.

How­ever, Lim doesn’t dis­count the fact that there are some libertine pi­lots out there, writ­ing in his book: “Ad­mit­tedly, there are more op­por­tu­ni­ties to stray in this pro­fes­sion and there’s no need to lie about work­ing late or ex­plain the whiff of women’s per­fume on the uni­form.”

One does get a sense that Lim is telling it as it is in Life In The Skies, giv­ing read­ers an in­ti­mate glimpse of what goes on in­side a cock­pit – or away from the cock­pit for that mat­ter!

“At times, pi­lot­ing can be a very glam­orous pro­fes­sion. You meet nice peo­ple and you go to nice places. Through­out the course of my ca­reer, I’ve trav­elled to places such as New York, Lon­don and Paris for free. But what peo­ple don’t know is that pi­lots are also un­der a lot of pres­sure. If you make the wrong de­ci­sion, it af­fects a lot of peo­ple,” he shares.

For a man who’s clocked 25,500 flight hours, it does come as a sur­prise that pi­lot­ing wasn’t Lim’s first ca­reer choice.

“I’m from the old school gen­er­a­tion. When I was young, I only wanted to be­come a teacher. Those days you never thought of be­com­ing a pi­lot. It just so hap­pened that when I left school, there was a re­cruit­ment call for pi­lots and I ap­plied through a very rig­or­ous process,” he shares.

Lim re­ceived his wings and grad­u­ated as a pi­lot in 1968 with the Royal Air Force in Bri­tain. Through­out the course of his avi­a­tion jour­ney, he has made the tran­si­tion from fly­ing the Scot­tish Avi­a­tion Twin Pioneers to Boe­ing 777 to Air­bus A320, A330 and A340.

When he ended his ser­vice with Malaysia Air­lines at the age of 60, Lim flew for an ad­di­tional five years with AirAsia be­fore re­tir­ing at age 65 (the le­gal age limit for fly­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally). To­day, he is a ground and flight sim­u­la­tor in­struc­tor with AirAsia.

If fly­ing was Lim’s pro­fes­sion, the web­site Just About Fly­ing (askcap­tain­ – where the man an­swers ques­tions from the pub­lic per­tain­ing to the avi­a­tion busi­ness – turned out to be a very suc­cess­ful hobby in­deed.

At any given time of the day, there are over 1,000 visi­tors on the web­site and Lim re­ceives an av­er­age of four to five ques­tions on a daily ba­sis.

“I started my web­site about 12 years ago. I was sort of just giv­ing free ad­vice and af­ter a while, I no­ticed that I’ve ac­cu­mu­lated a lot of con­tent,” says the proud grand­fa­ther of five.

Some of that con­tent made it into Life In The Skies. The bulk of the con­tent, though, comes from Lim’s monthly col­umn over the past six years up to June this year in AirAsia’s in­flight mag­a­zine, Travel 3Sixty.

“There are a lot of things the man in the street doesn’t un­der­stand about fly­ing. That’s un­der­stand­able be­cause avi­a­tion can be very tech­ni­cal some­times. That is why I write in a sim­ple way that lay­men can iden­tify with,” says Lim.

Part au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal and part guide­book, Life In The Skies could be re­garded as quin­tes­sen­tial lit­er­a­ture for avid trav­ellers and as­pir­ing pi­lots. Lim also tack­les a very pop­u­lar topic in his book: the fear of fly­ing.

Among some of the ques­tions Lim an­swers in the book in­clude the safest seats in a flight, tur­bu­lence, the dura­bil­ity of an aero­plane’s wings and a hy­po­thet­i­cal sce­nario in which a pi­lot sud­denly suf­fers a heart at­tack.

“Fear of fly­ing comes from lack of knowl­edge about avi­a­tion in gen­eral. Fly­ing is safe. As a mat­ter of fact, it is 10 to 40 times safer than driv­ing,” he says.

“Driv­ing scares me more. I al­ways tell peo­ple that I’m safer fly­ing than driv­ing to work,” he adds with a chuckle.

That be­ing said, Lim gets a lot of per­sonal grat­i­fi­ca­tion when peo­ple who were fear­ful fly­ers write in to let him know that his book has com­forted them in some ways when it comes to fly­ing.

At the end of the day, though, what Life In The Skies man­ages to ef­fec­tively con­vey is the il­lus­tri­ous jour­ney of a man who, by hap­pen­stance, found a life­long pas­sion in fly­ing.

“I en­joy what I do. If you love what you do, it’s no longer work. It all boils down to your pas­sion,” he con­cludes.

Life In The Skies is avail­able at ma­jor book­stores, from airasi­amega­s­ and on board all AirAsia X flights.

Your guide to the skies: Part au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal and part guide­book, cap­tain Lim Khoy Hing’s LifeInThe Skies could be re­garded as quin­tes­sen­tial lit­er­a­ture for avid trav­ellers and as­pir­ing


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