Boutique service for aviators

To a small community of Singaporeans, the sky is the limit.

These flying aficionados are members of WingsOverAsia, a social network for private aviators and enthusiasts in Asia that is based in Singapore.

It is the first of its kind in Asia, and the only group here that not only brings together private aircraft owners, but also provides a suite of professional services.

Set up in 2004 by Mr Ng Yeow Meng, 42, it began as an online community on Facebook.

Mr Ng, who learnt to fly an aircraft in 1998 in the United States, felt there was a dearth of information when it came to flying beyond local borders and wanted to promote the awareness and growth of private aviation.

There are three local flying clubs here whose members are not private aircraft owners, unlike WingsOverAsia.

 
 

The Singapore Youth Flying Club's members are tertiary students between the ages of 16 and 19. The club takes in a new batch of 170 members each year.

The Republic of Singapore Flying Club has about 70 members aged between 18 and 60, and has one aircraft which members can rent for $500 an hour.

Seletar Flying Club's rental rate is also $500 an hour and the club has two aircraft available for rental for its 100 or so members aged between 17 and 50.

These three flying clubs mainly provide flight training services, enabling aspiring pilots to train for a Private Pilot Licence. Flight training is generally conducted in Singapore.

Rather than compete with what these flying clubs do, WingsOverAsia complements their services by providing advanced aircraft and avionics training, as well as pilot proficiency programmes to upgrade the knowledge of private pilots.

By 2009, based on the evolving requirements of its members, WingsOverAsia started providing offline services, including flying tours, worldwide flight concierge and ground handling.

Says Mr Ng: "All aircraft receive the same red-carpet treatment. We provide a boutique level of service at very competitive rates."

WingsOverAsia also sells aircraft and provides aircraft acquisition and support services for private aircraft owners.

The social network, which began with just tens of Singapore-based members, now has close to 1,200 members across Asia. About 30 per cent of them are Singaporeans.

Not all are aircraft owners. Enthusiasts who have "an open mind to meet, share and learn from fellow members" are welcome to join, says Mr Ng.

The youngest member is a junior college student and the oldest is in his 60s.

 Mr Ng has a "very lean team" of nine full-time staff here, and branch offices in Malaysia and Thailand. He hopes to start branch offices in China and Indonesia.

Private aircraft owners here who are members say they are thankful for this network, which provides a platform to bond through their shared passion for flying and to exchange tales of their adventures in the air.

They also appreciate the logistics planning that the network does in ensuring they have direct access to airports not used by commercial airlines.

Bank executive Ian Heng, 48, says there is "great camaraderie" among the members and he enjoys flying out on social trips with them. WingsOverAsia plans four or five trips a year that are a mix of weekend getaways and week-long tours. Destinations have included Australia, Thailand and Cambodia.

"The scenery is always great. Think paddy fields, meandering rivers and navigating between limestone hills and karst," he says.

  • The articles first appeared in the July 2015 issue of The Life e-magazine in The Straits Times Star E-books app, with the headline "The high life".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'Boutique service for aviators'. Print Edition | Subscribe