Pioneer airline crew, pilots still flying high after 50 years

Former World War II bomber pilot Ho Weng Toh, 99, who flew for Malayan Airways, Malaysia-Singapore Airlines and Singapore Airlines, flanked by former air stewardesses Eunice Chua (left), 76, and Dolly Tan Soo Phin, 74, at the reunion at the Singapore
Former World War II bomber pilot Ho Weng Toh, 99, who flew for Malayan Airways, Malaysia-Singapore Airlines and Singapore Airlines, flanked by former air stewardesses Eunice Chua (left), 76, and Dolly Tan Soo Phin, 74, at the reunion at the Singapore Cricket Club yesterday.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Former air stewardess Eunice Chua had one of the biggest shocks of her life when she showed some compassion to what appeared to be a down and out passenger on one of her earliest flights.

Madam Chua spotted the middle-aged Chinese man on a plane from Kuala Lumpur to Kuantan in 1962 sporting worn-out canvas shoes.

The former Malayan Airways air hostess had poor eyesight but made out that her passenger's toes were sticking out of holes in his shoes. She felt sorry for him and gave him an airsick bag full of Thye Hong biscuits.

The man, in return, handed her his business card, but it was not until later that Madam Chua found out he was a millionaire in KL. "I had a night stop (there) and decided to phone him," she recalled yesterday.

"To my amazement, a Cadillac arrived with my host and his family to ferry me. Never judge a book by its cover. I went through so many funny adventures because of my poor eyesight."

Madam Chua, 76, was reminiscing about her adventures as a stewardess in Singapore during a reunion of the early batches of cabin crew and pilots. The event attracted more than 145 former cabin crew members and pilots from the old Malaysia-Singapore Airlines and Singapore Airlines.

Many are in their 60s and 70s, and for some, it had been close to 50 years since they last met. Yet, the pioneer batches of cabin crew and pilots recognised one another easily during the reunion at the Singapore Cricket Club.

Madam Chua joined the airline in 1962 and experienced its transition from Malayan Airways to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines. In 1972, she left Malaysia-Singapore Airlines to join Qantas Airways.

 

"Passengers were very appreciative of the little things we did for them back then," she said. "When I helped seniors to recline their seats, they were so thankful they held my hands for so long. We were quite young and naive. We said what came to our mind, and our passengers loved it."

The reunion was organised by former cabin crew member Ravinder Pal, 71, as many of his former colleagues said they wanted to meet one another again. "We've had small gatherings in the past, but never of this scale in the last 50 years... Everyone is so happy to see one another that they are already planning for the next meet-up," he said.

The oldest attendee was 99-year-old Ho Weng Toh, who flew for Malayan Airways, Malaysia-Singapore Airlines and Singapore Airlines. "Flying is a very strange thing. Once you start, you cannot stop. I really miss seeing the clouds... Seeing my friends again comes close to that feeling," said the former World War II bomber pilot.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 28, 2019, with the headline 'Pioneer airline crew, pilots still flying high after 50 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe