We chatted with veteran Airasia pilot Captain Nazli Shah and his daughter Captain Ilyana Nazli Shah, also a pilot at AirAsia on getting assignments to fly together – like when they got the chance to fly the Prime Minister in 2013 and their travel preferences after flying everywhere for their occupation.

If you are travelling for leisure, what attracts you to a certain country or city? History, food, culture?

FATHER (F): It is what the country has to offer which will usually be a bit of everything. As I don’t usually go for holidays alone, holidays are normally centered on family interest. I have a wife and 3 daughters. Imagine going for a holiday with 4 women!

DAUGHTER (D): What attracts me to a certain country is its nature. Be it the beach, the highlands or countryside. I would love to just laze around by the beach or take a drive around town. I also love sight-seeing and learning about different cultures. I tend to visit museums and admire the architecture.

How does a pilot pack for work? Do you consider yourself an expert in packing now because of your occupation?

F: As I fly the A320 aircraft, our roster seldom include a night- stop, but if I do get assigned for an overnight flight, it will be just a few necessary items. Extra underwear is a must.

D: As I fly with Airasia, I don’t have to pack any clothing other than the essentials such as documents, stationary etc. Holidays with the family however would be a slight headache for me as I need nice outfits for photo sessions. I used to get scolding from my sisters for not bringing “nice” clothes.

Was it intimidating when you both got called to fly together for the first time? Do you often get called to fly together now?

F: Not for me but probably for my daughter. I find it quite enjoyable but I’m sure she found it nerve wrecking. She puts high expectations on herself. We flew the Prime Minister to Kuantan in 2013 and that was unforgettable. First ever father and daughter team flying the Prime Minister on an AirAsia aircraft.

D: Well, it was for me because (a) he’s my father, (b) he’s one of the ‘Otais’ in the company (been with the company since DRB Hicom days) and finally (c) he’s an authorised examiner. So yeah! I was very nervous. I didn’t know what he would think of my flying, but it was all good. His only comment is my PA was “laju macam keretapi” (too fast). Our 5th and last flight together was in January 2013. It was a special request from Tony himself to fly the Prime Minister for the Integrasi 1 Malaysia Program. It was truly an honour and an unforgettable experience. Not to mention nerve wrecking as it was my second flight as captain and also my first VVIP flight.

Where is the farthest country you’ve flown to as a pilot, separately and together?

F: The furthest I have flown to was Melbourne when I was flying the A330 aircraft, together with Ily was to Chengdu on the A330.

D: Separately would be Europe (London & Paris) during my days with Airasia X flying the A340. Chengdu would be our longest flight together, on the A330 in Airasia X.

Do you have any rituals or habits that you practice before flying?

F: No rituals for me, but I do say a prayer before every take off.

D: I don’t have any in particular. I just pray that the house is kept safe and also for a safe journey. I also “bagi salam” upon entering the plane and “selawat” before every take off.

How do you stay connected to your loved ones when you are always in the air or abroad?

F: On the internet, phone calls or WhatsApp. It’s so easy with the internet nowadays.

D: That’s the beauty of the internet and WhatsApp. I’ll usually send a text to the family group during my local transits just to let them know where I am and that I’m OK. International flights however, I only text them when I’m departing and when I’ve arrived in KL.

What attracted both of you to become pilots?

F: For me, it was a something I wanted to be since I was in secondary school. I served in the Royal Malaysian Air Force for 14 years. I was attached to No.2 squadron flying the VVIPS for a number of years. I joined AirAsia in 1997 and God willing hope to retire with AirAsia.

D: It was a natural transition for me as my father’s a pilot. I have always looked up to him. I also wanted to be different as there weren’t many ladies in the aviation world in Malaysia.

Do you have a father/daughter bucket list that you wish to experience?

F: Go for a holiday to the Maldives, but with the whole family will be better… all expenses paid!

D: An all-expense-paid trip by our beloved boss Tony to the Maldives!! Hahahaha! Tony, please don’t get mad.

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