SIA: The Perfect Lift-Off

The notion of flight has enticed mankind for centuries. One SIA pilot reveals how his profession complements his interest for travel and aviation.

By Nabilah Husna A. Rahman

What is usually every young boy’s first fantasy is very much a reality for Captain Tay Lim Tiang, a pilot with Singapore Airlines (SIA). Having long harboured an interest in flight technology, Lim Tiang now has control over the “metal birds” and travels to different cities all over the globe for a living.

He chose to study Electronics and Communication Engineering at Singapore Polytechnic (SP) in order to chase his dream of flying to success, literally. “I was very intrigued with the job of a pilot during my youth. I was fascinated by the machines that are able to take flight in the sky,” the SIA pilot reveals.

With regard to his engineering background, Lim Tiang explains, “Modern aircraft incorporates many applications of technology, and as such, pursuing an engineering diploma is a logical extension of my interest in aviation.”

In other words, SIA provides him with the ideal platform for applying the relevant and ample skills he picked up at SP and putting them into significant practice.

“As a leader in the airline industry, SIA is constantly upgrading its aircraft inventory. As such, I know that I will always have the opportunity to fly the latest and most technologically-advanced commercial air-jets,” he says.

Watching the skies
Even after more than two decades’ experience in piloting, Lim Tiang takes nothing for granted. Before each flight, he keeps in mind a variety of conditions, such as the weather, that might affect the journey.

“Prior to the flight, we have to review weather forecasts affecting the flight, information from the various Air Traffic Control Centres and flight plans and subsequently decide on the fuel requirements. During the flight, we have to avoid turbulent weather to ensure a smooth and pleasant journey for passengers and maintain contact with Air Traffic Controllers along the route,” he elaborates.

His job might sound impressive, but it’s not always smooth sailing. A career as a pilot is one with many challenges – and “weather turbulence” is only one of them.

Lim Tiang shares, “The weather during the monsoon or typhoon months is most challenging. You will need to apply the training and experience gained over the years to overcome these challenges. Another challenge is the jet lag that results from the constant multiple time zone crossings. However, as pilots, we understand that this is part of the job and we are able to adjust our lifestyle to deal with it.”

One of the perks of the profession is certainly the opportunity for touring the world. “The most interesting aspect is the chance to travel to different places and experience the seasonal changes in weather of other continents,” he acknowledges.

“The most rewarding part of my job is the fact that I can operate an aircraft safely from one place to another,” he adds. Lim Tiang admits that with every flight, he remains “amazed that such a heavy aircraft can take flight with such grace”.

Lim Tiang’s length of service in SIA has honed his aptitude into that of a well-trained industry veteran. “On a personal basis, I’m thankful that I was offered this opportunity to be a pilot, and even more so, a pilot with SIA,” he enthuses. “The training and exposure over the past 20 over years have enhanced my ability to maintain composure under pressure.”

Aiming for the stars
“In the aviation industry, the pinnacle of a pilot’s career is to attain Command, that is, to be appointed to the rank of Captain,” shares Lim Tiang, the epitome of the success SIA can bring to its employees.

While being a Captain is one of the highest achievements one can attain in the pilot profession, there are also other avenues for career progression.

“Pilots who have strong technical background and instructional skill may be trained to be Instructor Pilots. Instructor Pilots have the opportunity to share knowledge and experience with the younger pilots through training and assessment flights,” he elaborates. “Pilots with strong organisational and management skills may be appointed as a Management Pilot. A Management Pilot helps formulate policies and manage their respective Fleet pilots.”

Hence, further career development within SIA is always a possibility for its pilots, even when you’ve already achieved as much as Lim Tiang has in his career.

A dedicated team
Life as a pilot is not a solitary one. “In commercial aviation, the pilots and cabin crew operate as a team. As such, teamwork and leadership are crucial. Most importantly, like any other professions, the fundamental qualities are interest, commitment and perseverance,” reveals Lim Tiang.

Ultimately, according to Lim Tiang, passion is one essential prerequisite for this unique profession.

“The thought of having control over a plane may pique your interest momentarily. However, you need to be certain that this is the right profession for you!” he concludes. “As with other professions, you will be assessed on your interest in the profession and the company.”

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