LAST_UPDATESat, 23 Jun 2018 10am

Captain James Tan: The Young And Fearless 'Engine Whisperer'

James Tan, a young man with big dreams. Pic: MDJames Tan, a young man with big dreams. Pic: MDKUALA LUMPUR: If you're a mother, what would you do if your 5-year old son comes home from kindergarten one day and asks you to take him to the doctor so he can have a picture of his brain taken to find out why is he different from the other kids in his class?

For Olive Beverley Tan, that was the moment she knew her son, Captain James Anthony Tan is no ordinary child.

James is Malaysia's solo pilot who flew around the world recently, a feat that earned the 21-year old several records including The Guinness Book of Records, World Record Academy and The Malaysia Book of Records for becoming the youngest Malaysian and Asean pilot to achieve such an endeavor.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, upon James' return from the '1Malaysia Mission Around the World' (1RTW) described his success as a major milestone for the country, adding that when he was at James' age, he was more worried about how to drive a car than fly an aircraft!

James completed his around the world mission in 48 days, after flying 21,000 nautical miles in a Cessna Silver Eagle aircraft across 20 countries.

James at his homecoming ceremony which saw the Prime Minister in attendance. Pic: 1RTWJames at his homecoming ceremony which saw the Prime Minister in attendance. Pic: 1RTWJames was diagnosed with Dyslexia at 8 years old. Despite his initial learning problems, James overcame it and powered through life with so much zest it makes one's heart soar with hope just looking at him.

Sitting down with the young pilot for an interview, it is not difficult to see how passionate he is about the things that excite him.

Having achieved so much at such a young age, he is no where near satisfied and is already looking forward to the next chapter of his life, something which he insists on keeping a secret for now.

"What I can tell you is that it's gonna be big. Even bigger than flying solo around the world," he said with a big smile, followed by his infectious laughter.

If this writer could use one word to describe the interview with James, the word would be 'hopeful'.

James is filled with so much hope and zest for life that it makes all the political fighting and bickering in Malaysia insignificant. If only everyone would just look at this young man and take cue from the passion he has for life, the world would be a much better place.

What Malaysia needs is more people like James.

And that is his hope for his fellow Malaysians too.

"I am just one person and what I want is to leave a legacy behind, one that will encourage others to follow their dreams and not leave anything to chance," he said.

Although he is only 21 years old, James is well-travelled. When asked if he could pick one place, anywhere in the world, that he would like to live in, the answer that came back was a firm resounding, "Malaysia."

"Without a doubt," he added. "This is my country. I was born in Kajang. This is my home."

It is apparent that James is different from the other young adults of his age. Other 21 year olds would be more concern about getting their drivers' license, but James, from a young age knew he wanted to fly first.

"But I do have a driver's license now," he said, when asked which license came first.

"I'm probably the slowest driver on the road though, whenever i do drive," he said.

Getting back to his flying feat, James, the always-smiling, cheeky boy jokingly said he saw Santa Claus and ET while being up in the air, when asked if he encountered any strange sightings when he was piloting the plane alone.

"I saw many beautiful sights, from fire to ice, to magnificent landscapes below me."

James told MD there is nowhere else in the world he would rather live in besides MalaysiaJames told MD there is nowhere else in the world he would rather live in besides Malaysia"The longest time I was totally alone, cut off from any radio contact was about 2 and a half hours. It is quite scary after a while, being above a frozen ocean."

"There were times I felt like giving up but I continued because I had the prayers and support from the people of my country, and the love of my mother."

Meanwhile, Olive, when asked about how it was when James first mooted the idea of attempting this record said that initially she had to wrap her head around the idea.

"I then figured that I have to help him do this in the best way possible," she said.

"My love for aviation began when I was five years old," James said. "Aviation is my medium. The first time I saw the commercial airliner Boeing 747 in the United Kingdom, the first thing that came to mind was how beautiful she looked."

On how the 1RTW idea came about, James said that it all started when he began contemplating his life, at a grand age of 19.

Smiling, he explained how he was already having a good life, travelling around the world, and one day while he was sitting down and having coffee, he saw a boy with Down-Syndrome.

"The boy looked like he had no dreams, no inspirations. I knew that if I did not have a caring family like I do, I would be just like that boy. So right there and then I knew I wanted to do something big with my life. It's a matter of believing that you can succeed," he said.

James was accompanied by his mother, Oliver Berverley to the interview with MDJames was accompanied by his mother, Oliver Berverley to the interview with MD"He's got lots of plans that's for sure. We're now working on the technicality of it all," his mother chipped in.

When asked about his 'rituals' prior to taking off or landing, James said that it was all in the prayers and support he was getting back home, from the people of Malaysia and from his family.

"Although I do have a special relationship with my rolls royce silver eagle engine," he said.

"We have a spiritual bond, the engine spoke to me. I knew she wasn't going to die on me," he added.

It can be said that this young 'engine whisperer' is passionate about his aircraft and is not just one to leave engine matters to the engineers. He knows his 'Sheila' inside and out.

James and his 'Sheila'. Filepic: NSTJames and his 'Sheila'. Filepic: NST"The plane I flew in is called The Spirit of Malaysia, but in private, I call her Sheila," he said.

Moving on to other random topics, James said that if he had a time machine, he would travel back to the beginning of time and see everything, especially where it all began.

This lover of history added that he finds the subject interesting because one of his life's motto is that one needs to know history in order to not repeat the same mistakes in the future.

On people he looks up to, James finds billionaire tycoon Sir Richard Branson a remarkable person, someone he admires greatly.

Meanwile, another hero he looks up to is Charles 'Pete' Conrad Jr who was a NASA astronaut and the third man to walk on the moon.

Why he looked up to Conrad is simply because, like him, Conrad too suffered from Dyslexia and he struggled to overcome his disability and eventually realised his dreams of flying and later as an astronaut.

"The most important thing is to dream and to keep on believing that you can achieve anything if you just put your heart and soul into it," he said ending the interview.

Captain James Anthony Tan is like a breath of fresh air amidst all the chaos in the country. He exudes hope and charm, and should be an inspiration not just to the young, but those older than him can also learn a thing or two from this fearless individual.

While he is now planning for the next 'big thing' in his life, it is without a doubt that whatever it is that he has got planned, James will continue to make Malaysia proud.