Friday, November 27, 2009

Off to a flying start by blogging

21 November 2009

THE online media poses many possibilities, from rising to stardom or applying for a dream job with just a click.

However, the idea of being recruited as a pilot through a blogging contest seems a bit far-fetched.

Never did AirAsia’s So You Wanna Be A Pilot contest winners Samuel Yee and Soon Chee Keong imagine they could achieve their dream of becoming a pilot by winning an online contest. That is, until they were announced the winners.

It did not help that Soon was informed on April Fool’s Day and he initially thought it was a prank.

The sky’s the limit: Soon (left) and Yee raring to take off.

“When I realised that I had really won — it was listed in the results; this was not an April Fool’s joke — I was screaming in class.

“My friends were sceptical at first, thinking, mistakenly, that I had been recruited as a pilot by just blogging.

“However, this is just an express ticket; it does not mean I can automatically become a pilot. I will still have to go through all the interviews and tests,” he said, adding that he had applied to be a pilot a year ago but failed the written test.

He said after applying to be a pilot through the conventional way, the waiting was painful.

“You either hear from them that you had made it or you don’t ever hear from them,” he said. “With the blog contest, at least you’ll know whether you’ve made it when the results are announced,” he said.

Yee, who learnt of the contest from friends, had never blogged before but decided to give it a go in a bid to realise his dream of becoming a pilot.

At the age of 27, he was considered ineligible by some airlines that prefer applicants who are below 26.

“I’ve tried numerous times and have applied to MAS and SIA.

“If I had not made it this time, I would have applied again next year,” the determined Yee said.

He chose to blog about the aircrash at Narita airport in Japan and highlighted the role of pilots in such an incident.

The duo were chosen from more than 300 blog entries submitted to AirAsia’s official corporate blog “Just Plane Thoughts” (

It all began when Derek Tan Yeong Par of AirAsia’s interactive marketing department mooted the idea of developing things through social media to his boss, AirAsia founder Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, and was given the green light.

“Airlines have strict requirements and look for those with the best results.

“(With this contest), we’re using a fun approach to recruit pilots. Instead of getting them to send their CVs, I said, ‘Let’s look at the person behind the resume.’

“This is a step of trust for the candidates to pre-qualify themselves. We believe that people are mature enough to use social media to apply for a job,” he said.

The result was overwhelming.

“It was picked up by Reuters and a newspaper in Singapore. It was hyped up within the aviation circles and discussed in aviation forums and blogs in Russia, Japan and China.

“The hits reached 20,000-30,000 within just a few days,” he said.

Of the more than 300 blog entries received, 35 were shortlisted. After numerous rounds of interviews and selection processes, three were chosen. However, one turned down the offer at the last minute.

There were even entries from Japan, Singapore, Africa, Spain and other countries although it was stated that only Malaysians were eligible to apply.

Tan was inspired by his brother, who had applied to be a pilot many times before succeeding.

“There’s a new paradigm shift. The human side has been neglected.

“Being a pilot is not only about having good grades but being able to handle emergency situations in the airplane and think on the spot.

“The blogging contest provided us a chance to know the applicant’s determination and decision-making ability. We could analyse the person’s character through the writing,” he said.

Tan revealed that in some cases, the parents were more anxious than their children.

“(After the results were out) some even called up to ask why their child had not made the cut.

“We also tell those who were not selected where they were lacking,” he said.

Soon and Yee will be heading to Gold Coast, Australia, for a year of training before reporting back to AirAsia for another year of training.

The contest not only provided the chance for the duo to realise their dreams but also inspired others.

“During the contest period, we (applicants) inspired each other and some said they are now more determined to pursue their dreams,” Soon said.


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