10-year-old Tibeau Zhan Fraise is the youngest student pilot in Singapore
What does your child like doing in their spare time? Playing video games? Reading? Cycling? This 10-year-old has a very different hobby – flying light aircraft. Tibeau Zhan Fraise has completed his first 10-hours flight training on a CESSNA 172. Tibeau must fly under the professional guidance of a Certified Flight Instructor until he is at least 17 years old when he is eligible to get a private pilot license which will enable him to fly solo. “This has been a really great experience for me. Not everyone would have the opportunity to learn flying, and I really enjoy being in the sky. I want to be a commercial pilot in future,” Tibeau said. We chat to Tibeau’s Dad, Aymeric Fraise, about how Tibeau got into flying since moving to Singapore in 2020.
Tell us about your family
We are a French-American Chinese family. My family has been doing business in Madagascar for a really long time – maybe more than 120 years. My father and grandfather were pilots out of necessity as there weren’t that many roads in Madagascar at that time. My father was especially passionate about flying, and as a kid, I remember flying with him on aircraft all the time when we were in the country.
I studied Chinese and Economics at Stanford University, and got a job in China right out of university where I was based for most of my career – and there’s where I met my wife, Jacqueline. We are now proud parents of two children, Christiana and Tibeau.
When did Tibeau start flying lessons?
In Summer 2021, it was Christiana’s birthday so I decided to take her and Tibeau out on a plane ride as a birthday treat. It was about a 2.5 hour return flight, and we flew to Tioman and back – of course, we didn’t land due to COVID’s border restrictions. The kids loved it! They were really fascinated as they’ve never been on a small plane. Since that flight, Tibeau would consume all different types of pilot and plane content eg. YouTube videos on engines etc. Seeing his keen interest, Jacqueline and I signed him up for simulator lessons at WingsOverAsia and even set up a simulator at home. His passion just continued to grow, so we decided to enrol him for flying classes on a real plane at Seletar Flying Club. Something a lot of people in Singapore may not know is that unlike learning a car, there’s actually no “age” limit in taking flying classes – so we really hope that other kids with a passion for flying will be inspired by Tibeau’s story!
How often does Tibeau fly now?
On average, 1 hour a week. Some weeks he may fly more or less, depending on the weather, his schedule etc. Tibeau will continue this pace until he can get his private pilot license at 17.
Is learning to fly an expensive hobby?
To be an ordinary member of Seletar Flying Club, there is a joining fee of $2,000 which you can sell to another person if you decide to leave the club. Subsequently, members pay a subscription fee of $150 a month and this gives access to a range of aircraft in the club’s fleet – including the CESSNA172 which is considered one of the best training aircraft for student pilots. To note, you need to be at least 18 years of age to be an ordinary member, so in our family’s case, Tibeau’s mother is the ordinary member and Tibeau is able to enjoy the perks by proxy.
Each hour of flight training is $550, and most take flight lessons once a week or month. Of course, before taking to the air, student pilots must also go through ground school. While it’s definitely an investment, it’s also not as expensive as some people may think. The skill is also one which you can have with you for life!
When you get your license yourself will you be able to fly with your son without instructors?
I’ll never be a natural pilot like Tibeau. For him it’s natural and instinctive, and for me, it’s like doing homework. Flying is mechanical for me – but for Tibeau, he just looks outside and feels it. He’s able to instinctively read the altitude etc.
Currently, I’ve logged in 20 hours and Tibeau is at 10 so I expect that he will outpace my hours quickly as he’s flying more regularly than me now, and by the time he gets his license, he would have clocked in many more hours than me.
Singapore’s best kept secret is that many of the tiny islands nearby can actually be accessed via light aircraft. While we can no longer easily travel these islands due to COVID, in the future, I’m looking forward to having a lot of family getaways with Tibeau as the pilot and me as his co-pilot!
Tell us about flying in Singapore – is there much space to fly or do you need to do lots of loops?
Singapore airspace is indeed restricted. We mainly fly over reservoirs for safety purposes. Residential areas are also restricted as we don’t want to be making too much noise or risk any accidents. This means we do have to make turns often as we approach the borders – on the bright side, this also means that people who fly here are good at technical flying since they have to get good at turning!
I can’t stress enough how magnificent the views are. When you’re up there, you basically have a 360 of the entire island nation and even neighbouring Malaysia.
A lot of people may be unaware that private flying is safe and fun; you can bring your children along for the ride in the front seat – so my advice is to try it out!
Many thanks for your time Aymeric, and good luck with learning to become a fully fledged pilot Tibeau!