Siti Syameen Md Khalili learns that you can get a fairly accurate picture of the aviation industry from just one visit to Infotech Quest Flight Simulation Centre
EACH time you take a flight to far off places, you buckle up, then get to enjoy a bird eye’s view of the land below. You can also observe the airline crew in action.
Most of the time, though, you don’t get to see the pilot, let alone step into the cockpit.
Now, however, you get that chance — to meet a real pilot, who will even teach you how to ‘fly’ a plane using high-tech facilities available at Infotech Quest’s Flight Simulation centre.
Located on the second floor of Muzium Telekom in Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur, the newly refurbished centre currently has eight custom-made flight simulator booths that offer visitors the chance to find out if they have what it takes to become a pilot.
Founded by Zulkifli Ahmad, the centre has four certified commercial pilots and a resident techie ready to help visitors of all ages take a seat behind the prop cockpit trainer (PCT).
Zulkifli, 54, says the centre is more than just a flight simulation facility. It is an avenue to reach out to the younger generation. “I was the kampung boy who ran out of the house each time I heard a plane in the sky. But no one I knew then could tell me more about planes,” recalls Zulkifli.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
The Infotech team made a pitch to Telekom Malaysia and was invited to set up a centre in the museum. To date Infotech has invested about RM1.6 million on hardware, software and getting the infrastructure ready. Each flight simulator console includes a high-performance desktop running Flight Simulator X (FSX), a widescreen display unit and a cockpit trainer with full control and instrument display system for visual flight and instrument flight training.
Zulkifli says: “We will be using the centre to complement Telekom’s ongoing outreach programme where, for only RM20, each participant will be given an hour of custom flying lesson using the simulator. The MAS centre offers a half an hour exposure programme in a real life cockpit for RM1,500. We may not have a life-size cockpit here but our equipment is high-end and updated.”
The resident techie, Shahdan Othman says, he makes sure all hardware and software that power the simulator are in good shape. “I calibrate the entire system as well as keep an eye on the latest hardware in the market as we want to make sure the centre’s facilities are up to date. I also get a dose of flying lessons from the instructor pilots,” says Shahdan, indicating his colleagues Ikhwan Syahid Kadir, Amirul Ashraff, Amirul Aizzat Ismail and Mohamad Ikhwan Marahakim.
Ikhwan Syahid says the centre, which opens to the public this month can handle up to 200 visitors a day. “We are open Mondays to Fridays from 9am to 5pm. We would, in particular, like to target 13 to 15-year-olds as these kids have yet to decide on what they want to do when they leave school. With the help of the facilities we have here, we hope we can influence them to consider a career in aviation,” he says.
Each instrument onboard the simulator and PCT comes with accompanying software that further demonstrates concepts such as speed, pressure, global positioning and more. “This way, the kids can immediately see subjects like Physics, Add Maths and more in real life applications. From my experience, when I explain to them the way things work, they can easily relate to the things they have learnt in textbooks and will approach studies differently from then on,” says Ikhwan Syahid.
“We are not saying that each kid who gets behind the PCT will grow up to become a pilot, but we hope to open their eyes to a host of careers related to the aviation industry. As you know, the airport is a mini city in itself and there are various careers associated with it. We simply use the flight simulator to spark their interest,” says Zulkifli who is now in the midst of setting up four more flight simulator booths to ensure the centre can serve more visitors. He has also roped in fresh graduate pilots to help manage the centre.
Zulkifli says the Infoquest team wants to offer hands-on career exposure programmes in other fields besides aviation.
“From our years doing exposure to aviation career programmes, we know that a similar approach will be effective for other fields as well. The company is now ready to offer modules such as telecommunication, engineering, medicine and biotechnology at the same time plans for non-technical modules such as accounting and law. We believe this approach is in line with the government’s vision to build human capital and achieve the status of high income nations,” says Zulkifli.
He plans to get more partners and financial contributors so that he can extend the programme to remote areas using buses fitted with the equipment and high-end instruments to create a real-life career setting. At the same time he will have a working professional conduct real life sessions. “For example, for the telecommunication field we want to have telecommunication engineers explain basic concepts such as electricity, and all the way to how fibre optics work. I bet the kids will be enthralled!” he says.
Realising that a programme as ambitious as this cannot be done alone, Zulkifli hopes to work with various government agencies and the corporate sector.
“We hope to make such a programme a priority in educating the young. As for our partners, we can offer the bus exteriors as mobile advertisement platforms for them and act as their ambassadors to reach out to their target audience. Together we can make educating our children a main agenda, not an afterthought.”
THE FUTURE IS NOW
Zulkifli says: “We need to prepare our kids as they will face a more competitive environment by the time they reach adulthood. I really feel the hands-on approach leaves a more lasting impact. The aviation exposure programme has proven that hands-on guidance helps inculcate discipline and intrinsic motivation, which should be instilled in everyone, especially kids in rural areas who may not have exposure or access to people who can share knowledge with them.
“We took part in the Karnival Inovasi in Sarawak. We were parked in an outdoor tent and thousands of people came. It was raining heavily outside and the queue was long, but one lorry driver waited patiently for his turn at the simulator. He told me he was poor and said he regretted not being able to bring his son to the carnival. But he wanted a turn at the simulator so that he could go back and tell his son about his experience. I believe there are many proactive parents like him. I hope they will bring their kids to the centre so that everyone in the family can give it a go. We don’t mind what age they are as long as their legs can reach the pedal!” says Zulkifli.