Goodbye to an old friend
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Diary of an aircraft owner
By Paul Jansen
There is a saying: The two happiest days of a plane-owning pilot is the day he buys a plane and the day he sells her.
As with all aphorisms, there is some truth in this general observation. The day I took ownership of 9V-BOE, a 1989 Piper Warrior II from the Singapore Youth Flying Club, was one of the happiest days of my life.
She was not the plane I had set my heart on, but opportunity knocked and I answered. The years that followed were filled with trips and treats that only a pilot who has his own plane can fully experience and appreciate.
9M-PRJ, the registration I chose after buying 9V-BOE and transferring her from Singapore to Malaysia, performed like a trouper, giving me no trouble other than the usual mechanical repairs necessitated by age: magneto and battery changes, new tyres, and avionics replacements. Nothing that a bit of money and attention from Balbir and his maintenance team at the Elite Flying Club could not fix.
What neither could solve, however, was the speed, range and endurance of my little four-seater.
She took me to many places; from Hatyai in south Thailand to the northernmost tip of the kingdom, from Medan in the north of Indonesia to Bandung in the south, and all over Malaysia. Having her at my beck and call meant I could plan my own trips or join other planes at the drop of a hat, which I did.
But as my appetite for unfamiliar airports and new eating places grew, so did my flight times. Everything was acceptable until one day when I arrived last for an airshow at Udon Thani in Thailand after a very long leg and was then asked to hold for a VVIP take-off. That hold stretched for more than an hour and into the night.
As I made circle after circle in the black sky, over unfamiliar territory, while keeping an anxious eye on my dwindling fuel, I felt a little envy for my fellow club members. William Lee, Kenneth Wee Toon Liang, Roger Lee, Lee Chee Yong and Kevin Muk had arrived in their faster Socata TB10 and Piper Archer II earlier and were more rested as each hop between airports we did to get to Udon Thai took them less time and energy. They landed before Tower asked the last few arrivals to hold.
The advantages of a plane with greater speed, better avionics, autopilot and so on were known to me in theory. But there’s nothing like a whole day of hand-flying a 90-knot machine in turbulent weather and rounding it off with a night landing in a new airport to transform theory into need.
I had been looking for a replacement for the Piper Warrior for a while but was now more motivated than ever to make the move.
So 9M-PRJ became an item on the Planes for Sale section of this site early last year. Almost immediately, I started getting offers for her.
Before entertaining them, I took Marjorie, my wife who was my first VVIP passenger to fly the Piper Warrior when I bought it in 2011, up for a last flight, to Malacca for a meal and memories.
Then I began negotiations in January with the most likely buyer, the Kuala Lumpur-based Academy of Destiny Science. I use the word negotiations loosely. Wyson Chan, a feng shui trainer in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, was so ready to buy the plane on behalf of the academy within a week of seeing the ad that he did not need to see her. Perhaps he had already seen her in the stars.
I had to actually persuade him to do a test flight with me, so convinced was he that it was unnecessary to do anything more than sign the purchase agreement. Chan’s reason: his technical advisor for the purchase had a great deal of respect for Balbir, who was handling the maintenance for 9M-PRJ, and Balbir had assured them that I was a careful owner and the Piper Warrior was in great shape and fairly priced.
After just a few short conversations, the deal was done within a week from the time Chan saw the ad, and in time for him to start the Chinese Year of the Horse with an aerial steed.
Hangar talk says I should have been elated “to get rid of a money-sucking albatross”. I was not.
Firstly, I had three wonderful years plying the skies in the region, dropping in on airshows, popping into new places, giving family and friends a novel aerial experience, and just enjoying the journey between take off and landing.
And second, she had held her own. I sold the 25-year-old aircraft for more than I had paid for her, covering all the expenses of re-registering her and the replacements required over the years.
Perhaps I am an exception to the rule. But selling 9M-PRJ was not the second happiest of my plane-owning days. It was the saddest.
I take comfort in knowing that the new owners are relishing the experience of owning a plane and 9M-PRJ in particular, as much as I did, as the pictures Chan has been sending me show.
On those days when the sky is blue, dusted with feathery cirrus, and the winds blow gently and low, and my heart twinges for the little blue and yellow Warrior, I am lifted by the words of the late Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran:
“When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
“When you are sorrowful, look again into your heart, and you shall see that, in truth, you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”