By Roy Goh
Noriko Hatanaka travelled the world while working as an air hostess in her younger days.
Now, years later and no longer serving passengers on commercial flights, she still flies. This time, however, she is in the pilot’s seat.
As the secretary-general of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Japan, the aviation enthusiast has never stopped flying in over 20 years.
"I even did a flight around the world when heralding the millennium," said Hatanaka who was here for the inaugural Borneo World Heritage Flight 2005.
Her trip here with the association's vice-president Captain Ari Yamagata was the first for both and noted it was basically a "fun trip".
"It is all about visiting new places, seeking new adventures and Sabah is one of the places I have always wanted to fly to," Hatanaka said.
They were among a group of aviation enthusiasts who arrived yesterday from Manila for the four-day event dubbed as an "air-safari".
Co-ordinated by Sabah Tourism Board, its chairman Tengku Datuk Zainal Adlin Mahmood said it was a travelling adventure for the participants who hailed from Singapore, Philippines, Australia, Japan and Peninsular Malaysia.
"Our programme here includes flying over the city on a low formation as well as another one across Mount Kinabalu (in Kundasang) and the Tip of Borneo (Tanjung Simpang Mengayau in Kudat).
"We will also bring our guests to places of interests like Sepilok to see the orang utans and visit the islands," he said.
Joint co-ordinator Joy Roa from Manila said air travel adventures using general aviation aircraft — most of which are privately owned — is a growing industry in the region because more people can afford them now.
"There are many aircraft owners in the region and they enjoy flying to new destinations. By grouping these people together, it is fun and gives a sense of adventure to the pilots," he said.
He said flying aircraft to travel may be new here but it is just another form of adventure like travelling by sailboat from one port to the other.
Courtesy of New Straits Times