Nadira Ramli and Syed Abdul Rahman

Nadira Ramli and Syed Abdul Rahman
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Nadira Ramli and Syed Abdul Rahman
Pilots. Entrepreneurs.
14 Dec 2020
Health and COVID-19

Flying the skies to nurturing the earth sums up Captain Nadira and Captain Abdul Rahman’s journey over the past few months.

Many employees in the aviation industry are still facing turbulent times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While boarding gates remain shut, this inspiring husband-wife team share their passion for flying and how they navigate life away from the cockpit.


My dad is a retired pilot, and while growing up, I loved his work-life balance. When he was away for flights, it would take him sometimes a week or two before he came home, but when he was home, he could be fully present with the family. Though I considered other career options, such as becoming a veterinarian, as my family loves animals my heart was set on becoming a pilot. While my father did initially caution that flying could be too dangerous as the weather could be unpredictable, he soon changed his mind when he saw how determined I was, and both my parents then sent me to flying school.

Abdul Rahman:

For me, my dad had an interest in flying but was unable to become a pilot. He spoke a lot about it which planted the idea in me of becoming a pilot. As a young boy, I have always wanted to fly jet planes. I feel happy that I am able to do it and find it highly fulfilling to be able to fly the passengers back to their hometowns, bringing families to their holiday destinations, also as a way to contribute to work-life balance.

Due to COVID-19, we now only f ly one or two domestic flights per month and to be honest, it has affected us physically and mentally. Due to this pandemic, for the company to stay afloat, we have both been affected by the pay cut. To cope, we had considered what we needed to survive. This was narrowed down to food, medicine and shelter, and we realised that most of our needs can be fulfilled by natural resources. 

This made me consider going back to nature. So together with my colleagues, I started farming. We now grow chillies on Ladang Kita, on our farm based in Semenyih. We will be harvesting in two or three months and hopefully will see positive results. For me, farming chillies goes beyond making a profit. I would like to help small restaurants and neighbours, by selling fresh chillies straight from the farm at a reasonable price. We are also looking to grow other crops once we are more familiar with the agriculture industry.

COVID-19 has given us the time to explore other ventures. Both of us realise that flying is not everything and we are open to exploring other opportunities.


We had been flying for for more than 12 years, being too focused and busy with our job, we never did explore other opportunities. Now that we have time to spare, I explored a direct selling venture dealing with environmental friendly cleaning products, saving the environment one cloth at a time. While this does provide an income, my interest is more into helping transform homes into safe havens by creating effective, safe and sustainable cleaning and personal care products that reduce the use of harmful chemicals. Through this venture, I have learnt that it is possible to effectively clean a home with just a high quality microfiber cloth and water. Engaging in this venture has enabled me to develop a new skill set in terms of marketing. It has also given me the confidence in approaching a new business, no matter how small. 

We plan on continuing with our current ventures even when we go back to flying, as something like this can happen again. We want to be more prepared should we find ourselves in a similar position in the future. While I really love the farming business, Photo Credit: © Nadira Ramli and Syed Abdul Rahman I have not got myself into it yet. Our present situation of both of us working in the same f ield has put us in this present challenging position. We are both looking for different ways to expand.

Abdul Rahman:

We are all affected by this pandemic. Something that I have learnt is that you have to start something new, rather than sitting at home and hoping. Talk to your parents, families, friends and neighbours. They can provide ideas that could inspire you. You have to get involved with people and your community, and consider what is actually necessary. It is not easy to venture into a new f ield, and I needed to do a lot of research before getting into farming. Some of our colleagues are also involved in farming, while others got into the food business. 


It’s a challenge to get investors at this time, and many of our colleagues are in the same situation as us. However, it is important to try something new, and hopefully it works out. If you have the means to help, remember to help those less fortunate.

I do miss flying and love being up in the air, with clear views. I enjoy having the space of having no distractions and being able to concentrate fully on the flight. 

It is heartening to see that f lying had become more accessible to many. People are much more educated. When you say bad weather, they understand. I recall a challenging flight I did during the monsoon season from Kuala Lumpur to Terengganu where we had absolutely no vision throughout the whole f light. I have noticed changing weather patterns over the past few years, where even in April, we face heavy rains like in December.


Abdul Rahman:

I miss everything about flying. I miss the routine of getting ready to go to work, talking to colleagues, meeting new people, and most of all, the fulfillment that comes from successfully dealing with challenges that may arise on a flight. My most challenging f light was from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur, but we needed to divert landing to Penang instead due to bad weather. The aircraft shook the whole time during the passage from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. Passengers naturally started to panic and we needed to speak and explain the situation to them. Passengers certainly looked relieved when we landed.

I am happy that we are doing domestic flights now, but in the future, I hope that we can fly everyone everywhere, once again. The airline industry has stepped up on all precautionary measures on the ground and in the air to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved. Besides deep cleansing the aircraft, and hospital grade air filtration systems, the airline has prepared contactless technology to give our guests peace of mind when travelling. Whereas on board, our crew are well trained to assist with any medical situation inflight which has always been a standard procedure, including identification and isolation of anyone onboard who may feel unwell. Everyone is doing their part in making sure that flying is safe.

Interviewed by Kiran Sagoo, PhD. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity. The views and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the interviewee and do not reflect the official policy or position of ASEAN.