September 07, 2011

Malaysia Airlines/ MSA/ MAL (REVISED)


A moment to remember, a milestone to cherish.
My 46 years in aviation, holding various positions starting of as Second Officer, Captain, Instructor (TRE/TRI), Chief Pilot, Vice President and Exec Vice President.

This blog is a reflection of my time in Malayan Airways, Malaysia-Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airways, Malaysia Airline, thereafter with Jet Airways, Magic Airlines and Go Air in India and finally in 2007 with Firefly a subsidiary of MAS.

To God be the glory for those wonderful aviation years.

How it all started:
Selected as Cadet Pilot by Malayan Airways in 1963.
Interview Panel consisted of Capt Jimmy Brown, Capt Flack, and Mr Wilfred Antoniz.
Commencement date on 16th Apr 1963.

Departed Paya Lebar Airport, Singapore on the16th Apr 1963 sometime in the evening on a BOAC flight to London and onwards to Perth, Scotland to commence training as a Pilot.
From Left: Ivan (partly hidden), Terence, Mama, Hilary, Papachen, me, Papa, Francis, Pow, Puru, Pow's Mother, Gopi, Pow's brother.
(Am grateful to Capt TK Pow for graciously providing me this photo)

Apr 1963.Taken on the first day of arriving London, enroute to Scotland. 'Me thinks' this was taken in the Soho area.
From Left: Capt Pow TK ( no specific nick name) and Choo KL (ABAB), my close buddies. We were in Course 19 at AST Scotland. Not in the picture are Capt Foo Chee Wah(Kurap) and Kwa HL(worm) who joined the course later.
Notice our slim ties which were in fashion then in the era of the Beatles, Elvis, Roy Orbison, Cliff Richard, Adam Faith, Freddie and the Dreamers etc.

  The Malayan Airways logo on a DC-3.

1963 - Cadet Pilot Training in AST, Perth, Scotland.
One of the rare opportiunities to travel around Scotland in a tour bus. The tour included Fort William, Ben Nevis and  northern Scotland. Beautiful country side.

The photo above taken at Kinloch. With me are Pow Tuck Kwan and Inderjit Sekhon. Sekhon took the trouble to make the sandwiches and drinks for our snack.
The yellow shirt I am wearing is one of the very few I had. Those were times when we were broke every month. Monthly allowance was 17 pounds 10 shillings. We used to spend all by the first week of the month and end up being broke for the rest of the month. The occassional '10 pound' money order from home food package was a welcome relief.

A pint of Calsberg Special used to cost 10 Bob (shillings approx MR 4). Going for a Chinese meal meant choosing the cheapest in the menu which was Fried rice costing 10 bob. After beers at the pub take-away at the Fish and Chips stall was 3 shillings 6 pence for chicken and chips; 2 shillings 6 pence for Fish and Chips.
Irrespective, memories of hard times are always very sweet and hardship moulds us, to achieve greater heights.
In fact looking back I am glad we were not like the Iraqis who had everything - cars, beautiful suits, jackets and girls. These same Iraqis were without a job in 1992 and joined MAS at a very low salary. How the wheels of fortune turned, and so it is with Life itself.

Malayan Airways- 1964
THE PILOTS (As they come to mind) Danny Fenton (DFO) ; Jimmy Brown (Chief Pilot) ; Bill Woods; Charlie Chan ; Johnny Flack ; Douglas Chen ; John Hawkes ; Nagy Segar ; Joe Hutcheson ; Ong Tong Bee ; Pat White ; Len Sorrell ; Tommy Yee Teck So ; Bev Brown ; Teh Hock Ho ; Charlie Rosler ; Johnny Tai ; Ken Toft ; Nick Nichols ; Ambrose Tai ; Ian Laing ; Geoff Kirrage ; Ron Gilmour ; Wally Brunn ; A.C. Leong ; Harry O’court ; Ken Morley ; Y.Y. Fong ; Karl Young ; Jan Bussell ; Jim Couper-Johnson; Allan Morris ; Jimmy Butcher ; Don Cox ; Choi ; Johnny Muraille ; Tommy Duncan ; Hasim ; Tommy Soong ; Johnny Osmond ; John Pereira ; Neil Morison ; John McCausland ; Winkie Ho ; Dave Richards ; Jack Clegg ; Hayden Ashley ; Len McCully ; Andy Andren ; Maurice de Vaz ; Rusty Russell ; Harry Roderick ; Duncan Mclachan ; Roy Parker ; Amar Singh Gill ; Ces Zuber ; Colin King ; Peter Flanagan ; Victor Ma ; Michael Lai ; Kandy Kandasamy ; Vic Gurm ; M.S. Leong ; Jeh Yeh ; Stan Dinsdale ; Peter Owen ; Don McGuigan ; Bill Mortimer ; Al Virtue ; Wu Teh Wai,Terry Chiole. F/O's Hassan Ahmad (went on to be the first Malay Captain in MAL/MSA) and later F/O Khairi Mohd. Both Hassan and Dato Khairi ended up being Director of Flight Operations in turn. 
Many of the above have passed on, however fond memories linger on and on. Our gratitude to them for the foundation they set to establish SQ and MAS on sound footing.
Course 18,19, 20 at AST (Airwork Services Training) Scotland: Maurice de Vaz, Len Mc'cully, Ng Kah Lok, Paul Yap, Inderjit Singh Sekhon, Choo KL, R A Thomas, Pow TK, Foo CW, Kwa HL, Mohd Ali, Tengku Shamsul, Arshad Rahman, Tan GC joined by Chong TM later.
Kah Lok, Ali, and Tengku Shamsul have passed on. 

THE GIRLS: Rosemary Tay (Chief Hostess) ; Susie Pang ; Kitty Murphy ; Ambi Kaur ; Maggie Koh ; Shirley Van Der Beek ; Betty Wee ; Maureen Weinert ; Molly Koh ; Jane Lim ; Milly Koh ; Evelyn Yeo ; Molly Woodford ; Kitty Kong ; Evelyn Teo ; Lily Chen ; Dorothy De Sourza ; Patsy Chan ; Helen Soong ; C.M.. Rodrigues ; Honey Leung ; Betty Lee ; Diana Cheung ; G. Rodrigues ; Velge - ; Violet Lee ; Chiu – ; Thio - . Amy Lim ; Nancy Liu

On return from AST, Scotland, my first commercial flying experience was on the DC-3 as Second Officer for Malayan Airways in 1964. Completely lost at first. Trained by Capt Winkie Ho. Gradually got to love this aircraft whilst serving a 2 month stint in Jesselton, Borneo (now Kota Kinabalu) - lots of handling experience that laid a good foundation for years to come. My gratefulness to Ian Hogg, Roy Nichols, Harry A'court, and the team in Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu).

A DC-3 cockpit. Hmm let me see if I can remember some of the items in the photo (above).
Autopilot controls -the black panel in the centre, the engine controls consisting of 2 sets of Throttles, Mixture control and I think the Fuel Shut-off. Remember the wobble pump? Gear lever is beside the Copilot, Cowl gills on the right side beside the Copilot. Instruments were basic DG, AH etc with nil navigational aids except for the NDB's which were hardly reliable and always inaccurate during weather , when needed most.

The side windows could be opened in flight and we could get a good dry hair shampoo by placing the head near a partially open window.

Lost my black tie through this window once, whilst flying from Sempang (now the Sungai Besi Airport) to Ipoh. Somewhere over Slim River?
I think the Captain was Merv Celand.

Those were days of real flying with no pressurisation, no weather radar, and flying through the thick thunder storms. When in rain clouds (cumulo nimbus), water used to pour in.

We used to operate the early morning newspaper run at 3am in the morning from Singapore to KL and onwards to Ipoh, Penang & return. 6 sectors man!!! They dont make them like they used to!

What I loved most was the hot tomato soup served after takeoff by the air hostess just after lift off at 3:35 am. Of course the soup used to spill all over if we ran into weather, invariably over JB. The Air hostesses in those days were so reassuring & capable and made a difference to the whole flight .

Above, a Malayan Airways DC-3, Dakota, flying over Singapore Harbour towards Saint John island?One of my typical logbook entries:
11th Jul 1964. 9M-ALO - Capt Celand ; ML 106/ 153.

SIN-KUL, - 1933- 2058 (Start at 3 am in the morning!!!) Newspaper run!
KUL-IPH, - 2229-2322 ( Sun has just risen!)
IPH-PEN, - 2332-0006
PEN-IPH, - 0035-0110
IPH-KUL, - 0119-0206
KUL-SIN. - 0229-0305 ( Arrive S'pore at 1035 am)
Total Duty period- 9 Hours approx and SIX sectors. Mind you with no cockpit airconditioning, no weather radar, and no navigational aids. Navigation was done by dead reckoning, map reading and landmarks. Note: our turn-around times- 13 mins and 9 mins repspectively at IPH - What so big a deal about our LCC's 40 years later, doing 15 min turn-arounds?
We really used to work our butts out in those days. Let this be a reminder to those flying now, including my son Andy, on what work was in the good ole' days.

We are quite a spoilt lot these days, eh?
Then MAL became MSA!!!

My glorious years with Malaysia-Singapore Airlines. All, Singaporean, Malaysian and Expats worked as a family with no racial prejudices or favor.
We started off with the Comet 4C, leased from BOAC. These were wonderful overpowered aircraft. Carried 72 pax I think with 4 RR Avon engines. Had a 1st and EY class. Never heard of Business Class in those days. Served as a F/O on these from 1965 to 1968 when I transitioned on to the B707's as a Senior F/O ( obtained my ALTP in 1967)


1968 - Just before a early morning departure from Tokyo Haneda airport on the B707-312 aircraft.
Seen in the picture from the bottom: Capt Bik Gurm, Capt Lenny How (u/t), Hostesses, ( Japanese Hostess in kimono is Sato 'san'), Stewards, Self, and F/E Cheah. BOAC handled us. Those were the gooooooooooood ooooold days- my how I miss them.

Also a B707 flight ex-Sydney in 1969. Front row from left is F/E Derrick Chua, Capt John Blackman (ex-DanAir) and me. By now the cabin crew uniforms were changed and the girls had their uniforms designed by Pierre Balmain. It remains the same to this day. Is'nt that consistency. Well done SQ.

Incidentally I was on the 1st B707 course ( Apr 1968) conducted by Boeing in Seattle. Left behind newly born Andre (now an SQ 777 Captain), and Sean 1yr 6mths old. It was a very tough time for my ex-wife Angelina with scars that exist even to this day.

The Crew on the first B707 course were:
Captains: Douglas Chen, Charlie Chan, SK Soong and Flanagan.
F/O's: Self, Pow, Kwa,MSA's B707-312 parked at Sydney's Mascot Intl Airport
And below at the old Perth Intl Airport.

My last flight as Capt on the F-27 200. Taken during transit at Ipoh airport. (Photo a bit blurr as this is scanned of the original)
My Logbook Details for this flight : 12th April 1971. Aircraft Reg. 9M-AOJ. Flt No: ML 061.

Immediately after this I commenced B737-200 conversion course at MSA Training Centre,  Paya Lebar airport..

Various Potpourri
Our humble Cabin Services Building when we commenced in 1972. 
I am standing 3rd from left.

Recognise any of these Cabin Crew pioneers?
Spring George, Edmund Read, SEP Instructor Naidu?

Above: Official launch of MAS by the Dy PM YAB Tun (Dr) Ismail, with our first Chairman MAS Raman Iyer on his right and on his left YB Tan Sri (later Tun) Sardon the Minister of Communications.

Above: Nose of a B737-200 and our DC10-30

Above: Tails of the B707, B737 and F27.

Above: Me with F/O Larry Cheah in the cockpit of a B707-338. Conducting preflight checks. 

MAS Milestones

Below: Memorial at the site where our B737 crashed in Tanjung Kupang. Both pilots were shot dead by the Hijacker.

Some of our early MAS Ads

Continued under a new label - "Malaysia Airlines - A moment to remember......"


Borneoturtle said...

i was reading your blog and noticed my dad's name mentioned. I am Captain Arshad Rahman's daughter.
He has since retired from MAS many years ago....
Aryani Arshad

zeme said...

Capt, thanks for sharing greats your sweet old pictures..

Unknown said...

Hi Captain Thomas, I trust all is well with you and family. Your article sure bring back memories of the good old days in MAS. Today MAS has not only change in Form but also in Character.My email address is We must catch up once in a while, if not for anything else to talk of the good times. Best regards. Dr. Don

Davieboy said...

Thank you for the wonderful memory's of a wonderful airline.

Our house in K.L in the 1950's and 60's was very near the flight path for runway 22 at Sungei Besi Airport.

I used see MAL DC3's, Viscounts, F27's and Comets arrive and depart almost every day.

David Wood

Davieboy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
xxx said...

Sir, was good reading the write up. probably you would have come across my father, Abd Kader Mohamed Zalman who has passed away sometime ago.I recall him mentioning your name a number of times

xxx said...

Sir, was good reading the write up. probably you would have come across my father, Abd Kader Mohamed Zalman who has passed away sometime ago.I recall him mentioning your name a number of times

xxx said...

Sir, was good reading the write up. probably you would have come across my father, Abd Kader Mohamed Zalman who has passed away sometime ago.I recall him mentioning your name a number of times

Cooper41 said...

I flatted in Earls Court London in 1963/64 & met Hayden Ashley a pilot I think with Malaysia Airlines he was on a training course. would you be able to give me any information about him please.

Cooper41 said...

Hi Captain Thomas my name is Doug McColl, I was flatting in Earls Court London 1963/64 and a pilot came to the flat number of times his name was Hayden Ashley & he was in England doing a training course. Would you be able to give me any information about him please. Email on