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ROMPIN: Darren Tiong's passion for aviation began more than two decades ago when his father gifted him a fixed-wing trainer aircraft and since then there has been "no turning back". The 37-year-old did not only grow up to explore the skies as a pilot but flew high on another turf by taking 'planes' into the air through his hobby in radio control (RC) aircraft, or RC aeromodelling. Yesterday, Tiong organised the 1st Malaysia International Invitational RC Jet Meeting at the Lanjut airstrip here which attracted more then 40 aeromodellers from five countries namely Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and South Africa.

The Sarawak-born said it was his father who sparked his interest into aircrafts and he now owns more than a dozen of the model aircrafts. "I was 13 years old when my father bought the fixed wing aircraft and that has now turned into an exciting hobby. I have been flying model jets for about 24 years and have gone to various countries for jet meetings or gatherings. "I have been a regular at the Lanjut airstrip here for flying sessions with the model jets and less than a week ago, we decided to organise the jet meeting which is the first in the country. The aeromodellers are having a field day flying their aircraft. It's the best in the country as there are no high rise buildings and it's far from residential houses," he said when met here. Tiong, who is Malaysia Aeromodelling Association president, said he hopes the jet meetings will serve as a stepping stone for people to learn more about the aviation industry and maybe pursue their interest in RC aeromodelling as a hobby. 

"A hobby in model aircraft is the first step to spark interest about aeronautical engineering and becoming pilots among children. The RC aeromodelling competition today is to give exposure and create enthusiasm among the people and hopefully put Malaysia on the world aeromodelling map. "There is a strong international community of model airplane hobbyists and the jet meeting provides has huge potential to become a major tourism event, which could help make the Lanjut airstrip and Rompin popular. RC aeromodellers were geared up to come here with their planes, so this could emerge as a new tourism product," he said, hoping for the backing from the government in future aeromodelling events. Meanwhile, Tioman assemblyman Datuk Seri Mohd Johari Hussain, who was present to launch the event, said he has discussed with Tourism Pahang general manager Kamaruddin Ibrahim to look into efforts to tap into the new tourism product. "RC aeromodelling seems to be a new product with a huge following and since the flyers have already identified the 800m Lanjut airstrip as their training ground, I believe the state government must do their best to promote the event. "Apart from the famous Pulau Tioman, the waters off Kuala Rompin is popular with sailfish and marlins and we have huge groups of visitors frequenting the Rompin State Park. Now, if we can bring the RC aeromodelling on board, then there is more reason for people to visit Rompin," he said. Source - NST

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