Adventures: Wings around the world, Malaysian style

Nisga’a youth advocates Travis Angus, Alex Watts and Terry Azak with Capt. James Tan. - Ursula Maxwell-Lewis photo
Nisga’a youth advocates Travis Angus, Alex Watts and Terry Azak with Capt. James Tan.
— image credit: Ursula Maxwell-Lewis photo

Capt. James Anthony Tan, a charming 21-year-old Malaysian pilot landed his Cessna 210 Silver Eagle, The Spirit of Malaysia, at YVR’s South Terminal recently – and charmed all who met him.

Having battled severe dyslexia as a child, a chance meeting with a dejected Down Syndrome boy challenged Tan to step out of his comfort zone in a big way. He would prove that, despite disabilities, dreams can come true. But how?

“If I was not so blessed I would have become like that child, and I wanted to do something about that,” Tan explained. “I wanted to inspire young people, and the only way I know how is to fly around the world.” From then on, his goal was to be the youngest pilot to fly solo around the world in a single engine aircraft.

Recalling his pilot training in Australia, the confident young captain described how determined repetition won him his wings.

“I needed to do things over and over, and over again,” he explained. With justifiable pride, he reported achieving 94 per cent in his final exams.

After a tough two-year corporate sponsorship battle, Tan was ready for take off.

With Asia, Russia, and Alaska behind him, Vancouver was day 15 on his 50-day global aviation marathon.

Three Nisga’a Ts’amiks youth advocates greeted him in an impressive traditional First Nations ceremony. Welcomes from En Mohd Haniff Abdul Rahman, Malaysian Consul General in Vancouver, and Tourism Malaysia Vice President, Ms. Kausar Kassim, followed.

As the four young men from such diverse backgrounds and histories circulated during the reception, it crossed my mind to wish the world at large could come to terms in such a civilized way.

“I want to make clear that this expedition is not solely about aviation,” Tan emphasized. “It is to inspire people to have a dream, and for them to actually pursue it, because one of the worst things, I believe, is having  potential, but lacking the discipline to see it through.”

The Consul General concurred: “I hope our young hero’s journey will inspire young Malaysians to make a difference in their lives, and in the world.”

After a fuel pump replacement and landing gear check-up delay before his Vancouver departure, the determined adventurer took off for Denver.

He’ll file flight plans across the U.S. to St. John’s Newfoundland, and onward through Britain, Europe, the Middle East, India and Myanmar, before returning to his family in Malaysia.

Happy landings, James! God speed. Follow Capt. James Tan’s adventures at

For information on Malaysia go to or call (604) 689-8899.

– Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is a Surrey-based Travel Media Association of Canada travel writer and photographer. Contact her at

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