EVERY day, Mr V.S. Muthucumar gets a big lift from work.
You would feel that way too if you get to fly a helicopter, which the former Republic of Singapore Air Force pilot owns, and which he uses to teach people to fly.
The 47-year-old conducts lessons in Sultan Ismail International Airport in Senai, which he heads to daily from his home in Serangoon Gardens.
He is the chief flying instructor at Fras (Fly Right Air Sport) flying club, which shares working space with two rivals, Elite Flying Club and Johor Flying Club.
Only Fras offers lessons to acquire a helicopter private pilot licence or PPL (H). But all three clubs can help you attain an airplane private pilot licence or PPL (A).
When he retired from the RSAF a year ago, Mr Muthucumar - whose 25-year service saw him piloting aircraft such as the Chinook and Apache helicopters - took lessons with Fras to obtain a licence for leisure flying.
After he got his PPL (A) licence in June last year, he decided to stay on as an instructor at the 10-year-old flying club.
"We noticed that there was a vacuum in helicopter training in the region," says Mr Muthucumar, who bought a four-seater Robinson R44 Raven for $350,000 in March this year from an East Malaysian.
The latter had posted an online advertisement for the seven-year-old helicopter made in the United States.
Since June last year, Mr Muthucumar has taught about 20 students to qualify for the PPL (A) and PPL (H) using the Cessna 172 plane and the R44 helicopter.
A PPL is good only for leisure flying. You need to have at least 50 hours of flying - 40 hours with an instructor and 10 hours solo. It takes about six to nine months to obtain a PPL based on taking lessons of one to two hours each week.
Applicants take a test conducted by Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation.
A PPL is recognised worldwide but if you want to fly in another country, you have to take some classes to familiarise yourself with the latter's air laws and routes.
Singaporeans have been going to Senai to learn to fly or do leisure flying in the last five years. The reason is that Singapore's air space is extremely limited.
Mr Jason Ong, an executive officer from the Singapore Youth Flying Club, says the air space designated for club flying comprises an area between Seletar airport and Bukit Timah Hill.
A check with two other clubs - Seletar Flying Club and Republic of Singapore Flying Club - shows that they offer a PPL but you have to complete the navigational phase of the licence in Malaysia.
Mr Lee Buck Choon, flight operations manager at the Republic of Singapore Flying Club, confirms that there are no clubs here that offer a helicopter PPL.
Mr Muthucumar says interest in the latter is growing. For one thing, the aircraft is much more manoeuvrable since it has reverse motion and hovering capabilities, and can land almost anywhere.
The R44 can fly at lower altitudes, making it an excellent choice for sightseeing.
Mr Muthucumar's helicopter students are mostly in their 30s or 40s.
"Younger people generally go for the planes because most aspire to be commercial pilots and they want a taste of flying before going pro," he adds.
You have to be at least 17 years old and pass a medical examination before you can apply for a PPL.
Fras' 200 members range from polytechnic students to directors and professors.
Among them is Mr Lou Wei Wen, 40, an engineer, who goes to Senai every Sunday. He holds a PPL for fixed wing aircraft and is now going for a helicopter PPL.
One big attraction of Senai is the lower cost. For example, Fras members pay $790 to join and a monthly fee of $30 versus, say, Seletar Flying Club's joining fee of $1,000 and monthly subscription of $80.
Getting a PPL for fixed wing aircraft and helicopter in Johor will cost about $14,000 and $41,500 respectively. The difference is due to the higher maintenance cost of a helicopter.
Fras founder Gurcharan Singh, 46, is optimistic that more people - it has four now - will sign up for helicopter lessons.
The club intends to have a scheme where it will maintain an aircraft bought by a group of people for their own flying needs.
These developments should keep Mr Muthucumar busy.
Incidentally, his helicopter has 9M-SCJ marked on the tail.
He says 9M is the registration code for all Malaysian aircraft and M is a happy coincidence since it is the first letter of his name.
And what about SCJ?
"They stand for Sean, Charmaine and Jane," he says with a grin, referring to his son, seven, daughter, 11, and wife, 40, who's a housewife.
Top picture: Chief instructor at the Fly Right Air Sport flying club V.S. Muthucumar (left) and club
founder Gurcharan Singh with the four-seater Robinson R44 Raven owned by the former.
Photo courtesy of V.S. Muthucumar