Plan afoot for aircraft industry

PLANS are under way for Malaysia to venture into the amphibious ultralight aircraft industry, which could be based in Ipoh, Malacca or, perhaps, even Langkawi.

The project will be undertaken by Country Heights Holdings Bhd with the company’s founder and deputy chairman, Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew, spearheading the initiative.

Sharing Lee’s vision is former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who feels the project will a create a flying culture among Malaysians.

Recently, Lee and Mahathir took a ride in one of the Italian-manufactured Jetfox 91 ultralight aircraft over the waters of the Mines City Resort in Seri Kembangan, Selangor, and were impressed with its performance.

The aircraft is characterised by a very aerodynamic shape, to improve efficiency and autonomy.

The flaps make approach and landing particularly effective at mo­­dest speed, thus making the aircraft easy to operate on short runways.

“It is also ideal for pilot schools and this is why the aircraft comes highly recommended, although it should be further modified for better suitability,” Mahathir said when met after his ride in the two-seater aircraft.

Lee said both he and the former premier hoped to set up a factory to start manufacturing amphibious aircraft locally.

“We have a couple of places in mind. We have thought of Ipoh and Malacca, where there are flying schools, although Tun has proposed Langkawi as an alternative venue,” said Lee, who has acquired two of the aircraft from the Italian makers.

If the plans to manufacture amphibious aircraft locally fall into place, then Malaysians, if not golfers, will have a different perception of playing golf in the country.

The aircraft would likely be a regular feature at South-East Asia’s version of Mission Hills in China, which exudes the same elegance and style as other world-class golf courses like The Wentworth Estate in England, The Heritage in Ireland, Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai and Hua Hin in Thailand.

Lee also hopes to manage the largest golf course in the country where golfers would fly via ultralight aircraft from one course to another.

He said this could be realised by combining the 63-hole Mines Golf City that is being built on the former Rasa estate with the 36-hole state-owned Bukit Beruntung Golf and Country Club.

“My idea is to have the largest golf course in the country, with golfers flying in to play golf in their amphibious aircraft. The aircraft only need a 50m runway, so that is not a problem if you have the vision to create such facilities,” said Lee, a 15-handicapper.

During a two-hour meeting with the Italian maker at the Mines Business Park recently, Lee and Mhatahir emphasised the need to make the aircraft locally as they saw potential in the local market.

Lee has instructed his staff members to work on the project immediately and obtain the necessary inputs on the aircraft.

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