Sunday, 1 December 2013

Passion for the sky

Part autobiographical, part guidebook, Captain Lim Khoy Hing’s 'Life In The Skies' could be regarded as quintessential literature for avid travellers and aspiring pilots.

Part autobiographical, part guidebook, Captain Lim Khoy Hing’s 'Life In The Skies' could be regarded as quintessential literature for avid travellers and aspiring pilots.

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

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 ( – 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 and on board all AirAsia X flights.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Captain Lim Khoy Hing , Life In Skies , author interview , AirAsia , book , aviation , travel


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