Below is a version of my 18 minutes talk in TEDx Petaling Street 2015 (a Chinese spoken event in Malaysia). My talk was the only 2 exceptions in English given on 14th November 2015 at Wisma MCA.
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking.
I am Captain Lim from the Flight Deck.
Welcome aboard our flight, TEDx 1411.
Please fasten your seat belts!
If you have not, we are getting air borne shortly!
I hope you all are going to enjoy your flight with me today!”
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Can the cabin doors be opened in flight?
Have you all heard about this story of a woman who tried to open a cabin door in flight so that she could smoke a cigarette?
According to a report, she was a fearful flyer, had taken some alcohol and sleeping tablets ahead of a flight from Hong Kong to Brisbane.
She was seen trying to open the cabin door but was stopped by a flight attendant.
She was arrested when the plane landed in Brisbane, Australia
Well, ladies and gentlemen, you don’t have to worry about any crazy guy or gal trying to open a door in flight. It is not possible!
The doors are designed in such a way that you cannot push it out directly
Once a plane takes off, the cabin starts to pressurize, creating greater pressure inside than outside, pressing the door firmly onto its side.
It could not be opened unless the plane is depressurized whereby you could see the flight attendant, firstly had to unlock the door, then pulled inwards before moving it out.
So even though it would be impossible for anyone to open it, please don’t try it or else you would be arrested on landing!
Why tea and food taste different in flight?
Not many people know the reasons why sometimes your tea tastes funny or your food doesn’t taste good in flight.
Well, this is because the boiling point of water is only 90 degrees Celsius instead of 100 degrees due to the lower pressure.
This interferes with the brewing process. Hence your tea tasted funny!
As a matter of interest, do you know you cannot make hard-boiled eggs at the top of Mount Everest?
This is because water boils at around 69 degrees Celsius up at the summit. It requires water to be at least 85 degrees to make hard boiled eggs!
Also, your sense of smell and taste are less sensitive. No wonder some says food don't taste good in the air sometimes.
How jet lag affects you?
When my daughter flew back from London she used to wonder why she had problem adjusting to jet lag,
I have to explain to her that jet lag can occur when people travel rapidly across many time zones.
The symptoms tend to be more severe when the person travels eastward, say from London to Kuala Lumpur and but the effect is not so bad flying Westward to London
Basically our body clock will be out of synchronization with our natural circadian rhythm as a result of the 8 hours difference.
This circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle clock that tells our bodies when to sleep and when to wake up and this is affected by sunlight and temperature.
So when you suffer from jet lag, your body clock goes haywire
People with jet lag would
• find that their sleep-patterns are disturbed
• feel drowsy,
• be irritable,
• lethargic and
• slightly disoriented.
You can’t entirely prevent jet lag, but you can manage it by,
• timing your travel well
• rest up the night before you go on a flight
• book a daytime flight if you can.
• drink plenty of water and stay away from alcohol on the plane. Alcohol interferes with sleep.
How safe is air travel?
A passenger once asked me, “How safe is air travel?”
I would convince her that it is safe. Looking at the graph (on the slide), flying has been getting safer year by year since 37 years ago.
Measured on a passenger-distance calculation, air travel is the safest form of transportation available — six times safer than traveling by car;
Some would disagree with my statement and would probably ask, “So how safe is safe?”
Maybe I can explain it like this,
The safest airline in the world is one whose planes never fly. They sit on the ground and you go nowhere!
Wilbur Wright, the inventor of the world’s first successful plane about 100 years ago had this to say, “If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds!”
Captain Sully, the hero of Hudson River crash that saved 155 lives said, “We must not define safety as an absence of accident…”
Ladies and gentlemen. remember, everything we do in life involve some degree of risk - going to the supermarket, crossing a road, climbing up the staircase, having a shower. Flying is just that little risk.
I feel safer flying than driving to work!
Do you know how many people are killed on the road each year in Malaysia?
According to the World Health Organization, 20 people are killed on the road each day in Malaysia or 7500 deaths a year!
Air Turbulence – Is it dangerous?
Sometimes on a bad day, the captain would make an announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, due to turbulence ahead, please return to your seat and fasten your seat belts.
So what is air turbulence - is it dangerous? Let me explain it very simply like this, air turbulence is almost like a car ride on a smooth road is then diverted onto a lane with lots of bumps and pot holes.
It shakes quite a bit but is not dangerous as long as you have your seat belts on and the car slows down.
Severe turbulence has even been loosely described as being like on a roller coaster ride.
During turbulence, the wings can be observed flexing a little and the engines shaking slightly.
Do not be alarm as the wings and engines are designed to do just that.
They won’t actually snap and neither would the engines drop off!
Planes today are also designed to be incredibly strong.
Their wings are capable of withstanding up to 150% of the strongest force that it could meet in flight.
Turbulence is only a nuisance to all, not only to passengers but to the crew as well.
When encountered, the captain would climb or descend to a smoother level.
It is not dangerous as long as the passengers are securely fastened to their seat belts
Sharing an unforgettable flying moment
I have often being asked if I have an unforgettable flying moment to share.
Well, I have one and it happened years back in Shanghai when I refused to take off on a Boeing 777 and delayed the flight because of an approaching typhoon.
A very very angry passenger was upset with me and asked why another Boeing 777 pilot was able to take off while I refused.
I tried my best to explain my refusal to take off, knowing very well that the approaching typhoon will bring stronger winds.
More so, it was a strong crosswind that would be beyond the capability of a Boeing 777 that I was flying.
Someone asked me what a crosswind is. Well it is any wind that blows across the runway.
As you can see from the slide, a strong crosswind would blow the plane off the runway!
However, after a while, all that heated moment changed when we overheard on the radio that all planes, especially the United Airlines B747 and a Virgin Atlantic A340 had been forced to return as the airport was closed for the day.
I felt vindicated that I had stood firm in refusing to give in to the demand of the very angry passenger.
My passengers’ safety was of the utmost importance, and I was not about to take any chances with it.
A doctor once reminded me that my responsibility was heavier than his.
He personally told me that when a doctor makes a mistake, only one patient is affected while a pilot’s mistake would impact the lives of hundreds.
As regard to the Shanghai flight, I was duty bound, to operate the plane as safely as possible and In all honesty, I would rather be known as a chicken than a dead hero!
Why do they dim the cabin lights during take-off and landing?
This is a favorite question by air travelers. Well, this is done for safety reasons.
In the event of an emergency evacuation, your eyes need to be fully adapted to the night light so that you can safely jump out of the plane onto the slides and not into a dark hole!
What happens when a plane get struck by lightning?
Lightning is not exactly dangerous to airplanes.
A direct strike would not penetrate the cabin or affect the engine.
When an airplane is struck by lightning, the electrical charges simply travel the length of the aircraft and exit harmlessly through the static dischargers at the back!
What does Mayday means?
Mayday is always spoken three times in a row during an emergency. Example, MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! Speed bird 123, I have an engine on fire. Request priority landing!
When the air traffic control tower hears this distress signal, the aircraft will be given first opportunity to land. All other aircraft will give way to the emergency aircraft.
The word Mayday is used because it won’t be mistaken for another word with similar sound.
It was first coined by a senior radio officer because MAYDAY sounded like the French word which means “HELP ME!.”
In the United States, it’s illegal to make a fake distress call. As this can land you in jail for up to six years or a $250,000 fine!
A humble beginning
Ladies and gentlemen, all the above stories are some of the collections from my website which I have developed about 15 years ago.
Some of my readers have often wondered about my humble beginning.
Indeed I was a village or kampong boy who became a pilot to go on to fly the Boeing 777, the Airbus A330 and Airbus A340.
When I was young, my dream was very simple. I only wanted to be a teacher, not a pilot.
However, after leaving school, an opportunity came along as there was recruitment by the Royal Malaysian Air Force for pilots and I applied for it.
I was selected to attend the Royal Military College and then sent to the United Kingdom for my flying training.
Someone wondered how I could afford the flying training since I came from a poor family?
Well, once you are selected by the Air Force, everything would be paid for by them.
Prior to being enlisted into the military college, I was required to get the consent of our parents.
There is a Cantonese old folk saying that a good son should not join the army!’ (hou chei emm tong ping!)
Obviously I was not that good son!
If I were to tell my parents the truth, I would not have been a pilot today! So I told them I was going out to work but did not mention I was going to join the army.
Without my parent’s blessing, I would not have been an airline pilot today!
A pilot’s Life
Today, unlike in the past, getting a pilot job in the airline is more difficult due the limited vacancies available in the market of many jobless pilots.
If one is lucky to eventually become an airline pilot, there are also many issues to think about too.
• Will the job be stressful?
• Will he be around on his son’s school graduation day?
• Will the wife worry when he has to stay overnight surrounded by pretty girls
Of course there are the good things, like,
• free travel opportunities
• flying to interesting destinations,
• meeting people and
• generally a good income.
Many aspiring pilots continue to chase this dream, which can sometimes come with disappointments.
Ladies and gentlemen, I will like to draw my talk to a close with a quote by Abraham Lincoln – “and in the end, it is not the years in your life that counts. It is the life in your years.”
So even though I am approaching 70 year old with 5 grandchildren, I want to make a difference to the lives of the younger generation by providing them the knowledge to
Fight their fears or any aspect of flying caused by ignorance and misinformation
Knowledge is power! Knowledge is the antidote and cure of fear of flying!
Lastly, before anyone asks me this question, “What is the difference between a pilot and an aviator?”
Well, according to Captain Jeppesen, one is the technician; the other is an artist in love with fight!
(Cabin Crew, please disarm the doors and cross check!)
Ladies and Gentlemen, you can disembark from the plane now!
Thank you for choosing to fly on TEDx Petaling Street Flight 1411.
If you like what you read, more stories are found in my book LIFE IN THE SKIES (Preview here) and you can purchase a copy here. To check for any latest updates or postings, you can follow my Twitter at @CaptKHLim or Facebook here