WOKE up this morning and felt a sudden urge to learn to fly?
While many may think the fees to obtain a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) is beyond their means, the Subang Airport-based FAS Udara Flying Club claims Malaysia offers one of the lowest rates in the world.
The Rakyat Post spoke to FAS Udara Flying Club president Capt H.S. Dharan on his experience and how he has fulfilled the dreams of many seeking to soar into the skies after the club was set up in 2003.
Dharan gave this TRP reporter and photographer the privilege of experiencing an introductory flying lesson on board the flying club’s Piper PA-28 four-seater aircraft.
It was a breath-taking tour of Klang Valley from 500 metres, amid gusty winds and clear skies.
Q: Tell us how FAS Udara Flying Club came about and the challenges in making it happen?
A: We started in 2003. I had been working in the aviation industry, supplying parts to several airlines when I decided to start the club to give myself but others the opportunity to fly.
We started with one aircraft. In 2004. I decided to expand after getting approval from the Department of Civil Aviation.
I have added three more planes to the line-up since then to encourage more people from all walks of life to participate in the club’s activities.
To ensure that everybody gets a chance at taking up flying lessons, we got the club registered as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) by the Registrar of Societies (RoS) in 2007.
I am proud to say we now have more than 200 members, 75% of whom have since advanced to become full-time pilots in various airlines throughout the world.
Q: What separates FAS as a flying club from other flying clubs in the country ?
A: I can confidently say that FAS Udara Flying Club is the one and only flying club to have a perfect safety record. This is because we put safety first in all our activities.
We are also proud to have some of the best pilots in our club, each having clocked over thousands of flight hours over the years to train potential flight school students to earn their PPL licences.
Q: What are the advantages of possessing a PPL licence ?
A: It enables one to fly any aircraft weighing below 5,700kg anywhere in the world.
You can reach Penang from the Subang airport in an hour.
The cost is pretty much the same when compared with driving a BMW there instead.
A club member can for instance hire an aircraft for RM500 to RM600 per hour, depending on the fuel charges.
Possessing such a licence gives people the freedom to take the plane to their desired destination, escape road traffic, making what they used to dream about or see in the movies a reality.
Q: Given the recent tragedies involving Malaysia Airlines Fight MH370 and Flight MH17, how is the public’s reaction towards flying and joining flight schools?
A: Even prior to both these unfortunate tragedies, the response to taking up flying lessons has been low over the last three to four years.
This is probably due to the increased cost of living and current economic conditions.
However, at FAS Udara Flying Club, we have provided an affordable alternative by introducing the flight introductory and familiarisation programme since 2011.
The programme offers a 30-minute flight and a briefing on safety features at RM290.
During the short flight, our instructors will guide them to take control of the yoke to let them have a feel and the thrill of flying for the first time.
This is a bargain compared with other flight schools where the minimal cost would be RM550 to RM850.
Q: How much does it actually cost to earn a PPL at FAS Udara Flying Club? How is it cheaper compared with other parts of the world ?
A: In the United States, where I conduct my business, I observe that teenagers there take PPL the moment they finish high school.
Some even pick it up before they take their car driving licence.
The popularity there is immense to the point that getaway travels on light aircraft is a common thing there.
While the cost of taking up a PPL licence in the United States is US$15,000 (RM55,000), at FAS it costs RM37,020 and this amount can be paid in instalments.
This is very cheap compared to the United States which sets the benchmark for PPL fees throughout the world.
Q: What are the future plans for the club?
A: In addition to the current line-up of aircraft, which includes the Cessna 150, Cessna 152 and the Piper PA28, we are adding the Cessna 350 Corvalis, which is the second fastest piston engine aircraft in the world.
We are also ready to provide the necessary experience to those who want to fulfil their burning desire to fly.
For more details, log on to www.fasclub.com or call the Operations Office at 03-7805 2895.