TL;DR – This story is proof that the sky’s the limit for those who try, try and try.
This is a story about how it took Kugan Tanglisuran nine years and 11 failed attempts to go from a despatch boy to a first officer, to a pilot with AirAsia.
Kugan had been dreaming about flying planes since he saw planes land and take-off at relatively close range at the Penang International Airport. He was only eight then.
“When I was 8 years old, I accompanied my family to the airport to send my father who was traveling abroad. I saw an airplane from close range and that was when I decided I was going to be a pilot one day.”
Although he had wanted to start pursuing his flying dream right after his SPM examination (equivalent to our GCE O levels), his family could nt afford the RM180,000 tuition fee required to pursue the pilot training course. Instead, he enrolled himself for a Hotel Management diploma course in a college in Penang. After graduation, he worked at several hotels.
But the dream didn’t die.
A friend, who knew how much Kugan really loves flying, suggested that Kugan join AirAsia, the low-cost airline, hoping that it would at least help to open up new opportunities. Kugan shared,
“Then, one day, a friend who worked with AirAsia told me to join the company. He said it gave opportunities to its staff to move between departments.”
Kugan was offered the position of a despatch and he accepted it. That was in 2006.
In the same year he joined AirAsia, Kugan had applied for and actually cleared the exam to become a cadet pilot. But his dream was stalled as a company policy requires that staff serve in a department for two years before transferring to another. So, he carried on his original job of delivering letters and other despatch duty.
But the dream still didn’t die.
For the next seven years, Kugan just kept trying. All of 11 applications and four qualification exams later, he finally successfully passed all the necessary tests and was accepted into Asia Pacific Flight Training (APFT) in 2013.
He completed his course and became a co-pilot successfully. Kugan’s first flight out on a regular passenger plane as a co-pilot was to Miri. He had described the experience as a combination of excitement and nervousness.
“I was nervous, but not afraid, as I was confident of what I had learned.”
At the graduation ceremony for the cadets, AirAsia’s honcho Tony Fernandes was there. He was so moved by Kugan’s never-ever-give-up spirit that he gave Kugan a special mention in his speech. In fact, the big guy even choked a little.
Apparently through Kugan’s journey to realize his dream, Fernandes had gotten wind of his peseverance and had given him personal enocuragement throughout. Kugan said he was truly very encouraged by the big boss, who said he didn’t ‘allow Kugan to give up’.
Kugan has this to say to youths who aspire to make it big one day:
“If you want to achieve something, keep trying for it. If you fail once, that doesn’t mean the end. One day, you will succeed.”
But seriously, how many of us would have given up already? Lord knows sometimes I don’t even try just that one more time. Love what Fernandes said in his choked-up speech, we should all take a little bit of Kugan, go all there and be the best, and to live our dreams.
Here, watch the clip of Fernandes’ speech (the Kugan part starts from 30s)
And oh, how apt that the airline’s tagline’s
Now everyone can fly.