KUCHING: For Datuk Captain Mohd Nawawi Awang, his career has come to full circle.
The new managing director of MASwings Sdn Bhd (MASwings), who took the helm from former head Datuk Mohd Salleh Ahmad Tabrani in March, related to The Borneo Post recently about his enthusiasm in managing a brand that had very much become a part of his life.
“Since 1973, I was already in this part of the world,” he mentioned during an exclusive interview. “To me, Sarawak and Sabah are very close to my heart.”
By this, he was speaking literally – Nawawi’s wife hails from Labuan and his son-in-law is a police officer from Sarawak. Career-wise, the Malaysian Borneo had been his immediate starting point.
“It’s always been my chilhood ambition to become a pilot. I managed to enrolled into the Royal Military College, after which I enlisted into the Royal Military Air Force and remained in service for five years before I joined Malaysia Airlines (MAS) in 1975.
“At the start of my pilot career, I was stationed in Labuan and with my entry into MAS, I was based in Kota Kinabalu. Now with my new responsibility to head MASwings, I’m really excited to come back here.”
However, Nawawi would now be given a large heap of responsibility on his plate – very much different from what he had to deal with as a professional pilot.
MASwings – the community East Malaysian airline service arm of nationall carrier MAS – had undergone a significant facelift since its inception in 2007. Under its first managing director Dr Amin Khan, the airline was established to cater for the need to specifically serve both Sarawak and Sabah. Notably, Dr Amin’s immediate successor Mohd Salleh saw the situation where MASwings were operating on an ageing fleet – the Fokker 50 – that consumed higher maintenance costs per hour compared against the 747s.
With new measures prompted by Mohd Salleh, MASwings had successfully phased out the Fokker fleet last year, revamping its fleet into having 10 units of the more efficient ATR 72-500s. To note, the carrier flew about 1.2 million passangers last year; a rise from the total 970,000 passengers in 2009.
“MASwings, both in terms of hardware and software aspects, brings the aircraft and its people directly to cater for passengers’ need in East Malaysia. In order for me to bring anything new to MASwings, I need to see – in depth – what has been laid out. Saying that, I’m quite fortunate to be coming to MASwings at a right time…simply because my predecessors have established a solid foundation for me to built upon.
“I come into MASwings to look further into this growth phase already established by Dr Amin and Datuk (Mohd) Salleh. Thus, I have the ingredients already.”
Based on his credentials, one could see that Nawawi had the capability. Throughout his years in MAS, he progressed through several senior positions in the airline, including the role of senior general manager for flight operations prior to being appointed the senior general manager (external relations), and effective November last year, as executive vice president (external relations). It was during his tenure in MAS’ flight operations division that the airline was first awarded the ‘Best Cabin Staff in the World’ for four consecutive years (2001-2004) and passed the industry International Oversight Safety Audit (IOSA) for the first time in 2005.
As the head of flight operations division, Nawawi was responsible in managing the safe and efficient operations of about 500 international and domestic flights per day as well as looking after the level of competency, standards, training and the welfare of nearly 7,000 divisional employees, both technical and non-technical staff.
“I am thankful. I’ve achieved my ambition” was his response when asked of his achievements thus far. However, it would not be the end of it.
“Amidst a host of challenges especially on fuel prices, Nawawi stressed that MASwings would continue its effort to expand.
“We will be looking internally first where there are lacking in terms of frequency, we want to address that. Only after all these aspects have been taken into management, we will be eyeing on BIMP-Eaga (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East Asean Growth Area). Towards this, a lot of work has to be done, simply because such arrangements would require approvals and compliance with governments within the sub-Asean region itself,” explained Nawawi.
He hoped that the implementation to be set up as soon as possible, when everything “is ready including the endorsement from our board and approval from the Ministry of Transport,” he added.
“I’m looking at a potential timeframe by the middle of this year. Correlating to this, MASwings will also be eyeing the Kota Kinabalu (Sabah)-Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei), Kota Kinabalu-Tawau-Tarakan (East Kalimantan), Kuching-Pontianak (West Kalimantan) and Kuching-Bandar Seri Begawan.”
Continuing on its fleet renewal programme, Nawawi said after the phasing of Fokker 50s, MASwings would be planning to replace its twin-otter planes which had come close to their usability period.
“We are closely working with the government on this, as we think it is high time for MASwings to operate with a new fleet, hopefully by this year – if not next year. We also strive towards improving our on-time performance (OTP) to an average 95 per cent this year. We are prepared for this and working very hard towards this. Our given track records have proven that we are capable of this.”
Today, Nawawi still flies aircraft once or twice every month. Having achieved both his dream of becoming a pilot and reached the pinnacle of his career, the sprightly gentleman has high hopes for MASwings to go even further.
“We are striving for the excellent service and product that is on par with our parent MAS. To me, MASwings belongs to the people of Sarawak and Sabah. I hope that when I leave the company, MASwings will become the proud icon for Sarawakians and Sabahans where they can claim MASwings as their own.
“This, I hope, will be my legacy,” he underscored.