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Saturday, January 28, 2012

A380 pilot loves the skies, the plane and good old Dubai

DUBAI is currently in the limelight thanks to the high-profile movie, Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol. In one scene, Tom Cruise swings by a rope and practically flies across the surface of the Burj Khalifa tower – the world’s tallest building.

Equally high-flying – but in a different capacity – is Captain Kwong Yung Ling, an Emirates A380 captain.

He has cruised around the world many times over in his 20 years as a pilot.

StarMetro sits down for a chat with Kwong to find out more about the profession, flying the mega A380 and the world-famous city in UAE.

Why did you choose to become a pilot?

With my late father being a ship’s captain, I became hooked on travelling from when I first joined him on a trip which was at the age of nine. However, you don’t get anywhere fast aboard a ship so I decided to turn my attention to air travel.

What’s your favourite place to fly to:

As a pilot, I would choose any of Emirates’ East Asia destinations. Emirates currently flies the A380 to 14 countries, covering cities such as Bangkok, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and from Jan 1, 2011 we will be coming to Kuala Lumpur.

For vacations, I prefer destinations that offer natural scenic countryside, for example New Zealand.

When did you join Emirates?

I joined Emirates in October 1998.

What was the experience like the first time you piloted the plane to Dubai?

That was when I was still working for another airline in 1996. I was taken aback by how busy Dubai airport was already in those days as a transit hub. There were many airlines flying into Dubai, obviously it was already a popular destination. The airport has never stopped growing. So, yes I was impressed with Dubai airport’s rapid expansion to meet the growing passenger demand.

What was your first impression of the city (Dubai)?

I was impressed with the cleanliness and security. It was in December, the weather was cool and the beach had white sand with clear water. I remember telling my wife that I would bring her there for a holiday. And that holiday actually turned into a decision to move to Dubai.

How much has that impression changed?

We are still very impressed with the growth of Dubaiand really enjoy living here. It is a dynamic city with diverse nationalities residing there. Security is very good. It is a peaceful country and very accommodating and tolerant towards the need of other cultures and religions.

Where in Dubai is your favourite place to shop, eat & visit?

We like to go to Mall of Emirates, City Centre and also Dubai Mall.

What are the must-see / must-do for first-time visitors?

Desert Safari and the beach, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Resort and don’t forget the shopping. And if there is time, one should visit the Musandam which is about three hours drive north from Dubai.

Describe what it feels like piloting the A380.

The A380 has one of the latest and most advance technology onboard, in terms of navigation, handling and luxurious space in the cockpit. As for our passengers, it offers superb onboard entertainment system and ample space and comfort. So, it is very satisfying to be at this stage of my career to be piloting this plane

Why is it different from other planes?

It is a lot bigger airplane in terms of size and weight but the performance is impressive, for example at its maximum design capacity when compared to A330, A380 is slightly more than twice the weight, but able to take off and land using the similar runway length used by A330.

Your advice for nervous fliers?

A380 is a very comfortable airplane, able to ride rough air better than most other aircrafts. Emirates has a very impressive onboard entertainment system where you can watch movies, listen to music and play interactive games from a selection of over a thousand channels. If you are unable to sleep, then there is a socialising area on upper deck with a bar where you can relax or mingle with other passengers. You won’t realise how fast time passes and before you know it, the plane is landing at its destination.

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