Third pilot in the family

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23 Oct 2021 | PEOPLE

Third pilot in the family

// Story by Gabriel Lee

// Photos Courtesy of Ethan Lui & SYFC

Ethan Lui is one of 14 PPL graduates at the SYFC's Aviation Awards Ceremony this year.

Joining the Singapore Youth Flying Club and getting a Private Pilot License (PPL) was a natural thing to do for Ethan Lui. After all, the 19-year-old comes from a family of pilots.

"Our interest in flying began from a young age – my brother and I were subconsciously influenced by my father's career choice in aviation."

Ethan's father, LTC (Ret) Geoffrey Lui, with a KC-135 in the background, during his days in 112 SQN.

The first person who shaped his decision was his father, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (Ret) Geoffrey Lui, a former pilot with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). His father used to fly the KC-135 Stratotankers, and also served as 112 Squadron's first Commanding Officer.

"My dad, knowing that my brothers and I had an interest in flying, encouraged us to enroll for flight training. He felt that SYFC would be a good training ground as many of their instructors are ex-RSAF pilots."

Ethan (second from right) together with (from left) elder brother 2SG (NS) Lui, father LTC (Ret) Lui, mother Tonya and younger brother Lucas during this year's Chinese New Year.

His elder brother, 2nd Sergeant (NS) Russell Lui, who obtained his PPL in 2016, encouraged him to join too. His brother is now an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore.

Overcoming challenges

Before Ethan could obtain the coveted PPL license, he was required to undergo flying lessons and pass seven theory-based ground examinations administered by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), as well as the practical-based Final Handling Test by the CAAS.

Besides having to juggle his studies with flying lessons, the Anglo-Chinese Junior College student had to deal with challenges because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, such as disruptions during the initial phase of his training.

"During the Circuit Breaker last year, training was cancelled and we lost touch with flying. We could only practise mental flying at home, where we went through the sorties in our heads."

As a result, he took a year and a half to finish the PPL course, which usually takes a year to complete.

Ethan (second from right) with three of his PPL coursemates at the Singapore Airshow 2020.

When training resumed after the Circuit Breaker period, Ethan managed to polish his flying skills with his coursemates' help. "We made mistakes, learnt from them and improved together," he said.

Ethan receiving the SYFC Pilot Wings from the Guest of Honour, Ms Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State for Education and Manpower, at the SYFC's Aviation Awards Ceremony on 23 October.

The fourth pilot

He has taken away many life lessons from the PPL course. "My biggest takeaway was how to handle situations under pressure. I also realised that as long as I persevere and remain determined, I could accomplish what I set out to do."

Going ahead, Ethan plans to follow in his father's footsteps and sign on with the RSAF as a pilot. He said: "I would like to play my part in contributing to the defence of my country while pursuing my childhood dreams as a pilot."

He also wishes to give his 17-year-old younger brother, Lucas Lui, who is currently going through SYFC's Basic Flying Course, with the same support that he received during training.

For example, his elder brother would spend hours running through the techniques with Ethan to ensure that he could execute them smoothly, while sharing training tips that he found useful.

"I also want to do my part to encourage my younger brother through his Basic Flying Course, hopefully see him make it to the PPL course and become a licensed pilot like myself," he said.

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