Soaring the Limitless Skies: An Interview with Mr Jeffery Ang, Professional Pilot and Lecturer

From making the decision to be a pilot at the age of 19 after graduating from his Diploma studies, Mr Jeffery Ang, our very own BA (Hons) Airline and Airport Management lecturer, shares with us what spurred him to become a pilot and the most memorable experience in his flying journey (35 years and counting!), as well as his take on the future of the aviation industry. 

If you are planning for a career as an airline pilot, you won’t want to miss this interview! 

When did you decide that you wanted to join this aviation industry? Did you always want to be a pilot?

I decided on this profession as a pilot at the age of 19, after completing the diploma in electrical engineering at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. It all started when I was looking at the career brochure given by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Recruitment Centre to prepare for my future after graduation. After discussing with my brother, I decided on the pilot vocation with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). Hence, my interest gradually builds on as I progress along with my career as a pilot. 

With a vast experience of more than 30 years, what would you say is your most memorable experience in this industry? 

As a pilot for over 35 years, I must say that every minute soaring the limitless skies and flying the aeroplane adds to every precious moment of my life as a pilot. As for the most memorable experience, I would reminisce from 2 parts of my aviation career.

The first was the military flying days as a Hercules C130 Aircraft Commander. During those military flying days, my most memorable experience was the participation in all Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations whereby part of those were missions under the command of the United Nations. The adrenaline level during those missions was always all-time high and filled with extreme satisfaction when I could see the relief and smile on the faces of many people affected by natural disasters, civil wars, etc, giving them some rays of hope. 

The participation of the air defence exercises (ADEX) both locally and overseas was also filled with many fond memories. Successfully executed missions during ADEX always gave me the assurance and confidence in my flying skills in protecting our homeland, contributing to the defence of our beloved country, Singapore. 

The second part of my memorable aviation flying experience is being a commercial airline pilot. I could fly to many different places, enjoy the beautiful and scenic views of those countries, experience different cultures, languages and food, akin to living a fast-paced jet-set life to many exotic places. In a standard month, I could be in at least 3 to 4 different countries, making my life as a pilot always interesting and full of excitement. Sometimes, I feel like it was a reward for all the sweat and effort during my military flying days saving people while contributing to the defence of Singapore.

Those were my most memorable experiences in the last 35 years and counting, as a professional pilot in the aviation industry.

What do you think the aviation industry will look like in the next 5 years?

The aviation industry will rebound even stronger and better in the next 5 years underscored by its strong fundamentals, resilience, tenacity, and resolve! Historically, aviation has proven time and again, its strong and sturdy recovery after every crisis, pandemic, financial and economic upheavals. While the last nearly two years of extremely low demands in air travel has almost upended the aviation industry, air transportation has proven its importance in keeping the supply chain going. 

The expeditious and seamless transportation of the Covid-19 vaccines by air to potentially turn the pandemic around is one good example of the importance of air transportation. Historical data has also shown that airlines that emerged from every crisis and pandemic have resumed their growth through collaboration, adaptation and innovation to rebound with updated business models that are even more sustainable and profitable.

However, the pace at which the aviation industry recovers depends greatly on the collective and collaborative efforts by the governments in the world to streamline cross-border travel in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Next, it also depends on how fast those aircraft mothballed in the desert can be retrieved and activated to become airworthy again to plough the sky. Further to that, the looming shortage of pilots and aviation workers will creep up to confront the aviation industry again, just like the happenings during the pre-pandemic times.

Last but not least, in the next 5 years and beyond, the aviation industry is expected to grow at a rapid rate underlined by its important role and function to connect the world in an expeditious and seamless manner. The last two years of almost no flying has created an opportunity for many airlines to restructure and reorganise their business model, re-adapt and innovate new service structures, build new strategic partnerships and code-share among airlines, prepare and catapult themselves into meeting the new challenges, expectations, and even more intense competitions in the aviation industry. 

The recent ICAO High-Level Conference on Covid-19 (12-22 Oct 2021) under the theme “One Vision for Aviation Recovery, Resilience and Sustainability beyond the Global Pandemic” has successfully reached a global consensus on a multilateral approach, supported by political will and commitments of States. This is a positive sign and great commitment by the world governments to return Aviation and Air Transportation to blue skies again!

Hence, the aviation industry in the next 5 years, in my opinion, will be filled with challenges and face-paced competition among all the airlines. There will be a tremendous amount of vibrancy in the aviation industry as the world rebounds from the unprecedented pandemic. Aviation will rebound even stronger and better to withstand any future crisis and pandemics.

What are some key attributes you think students should instil in them to be successful in this career path? 

The aviation industry has evolved. This has also changed the expectations and demands on aviation workers’ performance to meet the entire operating concept that has become more tightly integrated for better efficiencies and outcomes. In today’s modern aviation world filled with many advanced and highly technological operating systems, the roles and responsibilities of aviation workers have changed to a more tactical command and management of the entire complex operations with immense integration and interface with systems and automation. 

More specific actions with better accuracy in decision-making are expected in accomplishing the strategy and game plan outlined for enhanced efficiency with overall safety in mind. Key attributes would include an enhanced human cognitive thinking process, the aptitude to accomplish the myriad of tasks, better integration in a human-machine-automation interface, with a more in-depth understanding of human factors performance and limitations. The competency required will also encompass the holistic knowledge of the entire interwoven operating systems, the highly advanced automation, employment of effective communication skills and teamwork, and the ability to manage the complex workload with the highest discipline and attitude to fulfil the respective roles and responsibilities. 

Any advice for students considering a career in aviation? 

Aviation is a strong industry, albeit a volatile one. In particular, the benefits of air transportation have become significant and existential to the global economic growth in travel and tourism, trade and e-commerce, and global social benefits. Aviation is expected to return very rapidly with vast opportunities for career growth to meet the global economic expansions. Those who aspire to be part of the aviation industry will definitely stand to benefit from the vibrancy and boundless opportunities in the next few decades. Hence, for students who are considering a career in the aviation sector, you will be in a very good and strategic position to benefit and ride the waves of opportunities as the aviation industry rebounds with resolve from the pandemic!

 Bonus questions

 Do you have a favourite type of aircraft to pilot? 

All the aircraft that I have flown are my favourites. Each aircraft has its peculiarities and characteristics. Hence, as a professional pilot, I love all of them and develop a strong and close affinity with each and every individual aircraft that I have flown. 

What has been the best destination that you have flown to?

My home, Singapore! Whenever I am asked this question, our Singapore national day song: Home, will resonate in my head, and I can’t wait to return to my home, truly a place where I must be…the best liveable, safe, and clean city to live and build my beautiful dreams together with my beloved family. So, the best destination is always my home, Singapore!



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