Butterflies in the stomach. A proud instructor saying “all yours”, yielding the plane to him for the final test. Then the Seattle airfield falls away beneath Fabian Lim as he takes to the skies on his first solo flight. He’s free at last, not just from terrestrial confines. For the consultant turned digital marketing extraordinaire, this moment in 2006 was 22 years in the making.
“It was an emotional moment. I began having flashbacks to all those years spent in preparation,” says the 45-year-old behind Pageadvisor, a services concierge platform, among other ventures. At the age of 13, Lim had picked up a copy of Microsoft’s first Flight Simulator, a video game that places a player in the virtual cockpit of a wide variety of aircraft, with controls and scenarios that mirror reality.
He was enraptured by flight since, and went on to complete almost every game in the series throughout his youth. “So by the time I was in the States to get my private pilot licence, you could say I had been practising for two decades,” says Lim with a chuckle. That dedication paid off royally. Lim got his licence in a record 19 days.
The moment was made possible by a sudden structural alignment at Deloitte, which got him laid off from his fi rst job of six years. “I might never have discovered my entrepreneurial side or found time for flying otherwise; to be honest, I would have stayed on indefinitely,” reminisces Lim. “I was awokened to a hard truth: No one owes you a living.”
Unfazed, Lim leveraged on his many talents to get by. He played the piano at hotel lounges, put on magician shows at corporate dinner events and house parties alike, and eventually went into wedding videography, a lucrative but competitive trade. Here he picked up the digital marketing skills needed to set a firm apart – in an age where Facebook was but an idea in Mark Zuckerberg’s head. This know-how blossomed into an umbrella of firms specialising in digital consultancy and events management.
To Lim, entrepreneurship and flying share the same foundations. “Aeronautical decision-making is all about risk management and self-preservation. You also have to make sure mistakes never recur,” says Lim. “And checklists, making sure everything is in place before starting, are vital, especially when you’ve had a long day of work and just want to rest.”
Lim’s not done pushing the envelope. He launched Flightschool.sg last month, an institute that brings down training costs in Singapore so more aspiring pilots can follow in his jet stream. At its heart? A full-scale, industry-standard simulator, of course.
PHOTOGRAPHY Jasper Yu ART DIRECTION Denise Rei Low