7 February 1979 late night. Our aircraft, a four-engined Malaysian Airline System’s Boeing 707-300 took off from Kuala Lumpur’s Subang International Airport on our way to Perth, Western Australia.
Malaysian Airline System’s Boeing 707-300 aircraft, with registration number 9M-MCS. On Feb 8, 1979 this aircraft was flight MH02 from Kuala Lumpur to Perth via Jakarta, carrying a kampung boy to his destiny. This picture was taken 15 months earlier on November 25, 1977, when the aircraft was on final for runway 13 of Hong Kong's Kai Tak International Airport.
It was quite a stressful night for me. That was the first time ever I left Malaysia. And I was practically alone. Even though there were 9 other JPA (Malaysian Public Services Department) students on the flight to Perth, none was from the same school as me. We were strangers because we came from different schools – MCKK (Malay College of Kuala Kangsar), STAR (Sek. Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Ipoh) , STF (Sek. Tun Fatimah, Johor Bahru), TKC (Tunku Kurshiah College, Seremban), SMS Kedah, SMS SAS Pahang and SMS Terengganu. We formed the 1979 batch of 10 JPA students sent to Perth for matriculation (pre-university study).
And we were sent to Perth based only on forecast results of our MCE examinations (Malaysia Certificate of Education, a year 5 secondary school examination). Our other friends needed to wait until the results came out and then only in September onwards would the selected ones be on their way to colleges in the United Kingdom or universities in the USA.
By going in February, we had a 7-month advantage compared to our contemporaries, and with that came the very high expectations from our parents, teachers, sponsors and classmates, that being the supposedly selected few, we would excel when the results came out. And that placed enormous stress on us, or rather on me, because I did not know what was going on inside my new friends’ minds. But I could do nothing, except pray and hope for the best.
Feb 8, 1979, 3.30 am. A night view of Jakarta International Airport Halim Perdanakusuma from Malaysian Airline System flight MH02 on transit from Kuala Lumpur to Perth. We were stranded here for more than 5 hours due to a mechanical problem on the aircraft.
The aircraft landed at Jakarta Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport about 1.5 hours later.
The stopover was supposed to be a brief one before we continue to Perth and arrive there around 5.00 am. We were asked to remain on board.
However at 3.30 am we were still inside the aircraft on the apron at Halim Perdanakusuma.
It turned out that the aircraft had developed some mechanical problem, and all of us on the flight were then asked to disembark into the terminal to wait for the repairs to be completed.
We waited, and waited, and waited. Some of us could not fight the sleepiness any longer and had to make best use of the transit lounge’s chairs and carpeted floor.
Feb 8, 1979, mid-morning. MH02 KUL-PER. An atoll somewhere in the Indian Ocean off the west coast of Australia. MCS, part of the 9M-MCS registration number of our Malaysian Airline System's Boeing 707-300 aircraft was clearly visible on the wing.
At 8.30 am, weary and hungry, we finally re-boarded the aircraft and was on our way to Perth. We landed in Perth at 1.00 pm.
At the airport we were met by officials from the Australian government agency ADAB (Australian Development Assistance Bureau), and 3 senior Malaysian students.
The seniors informed us that many more seniors were waiting for us at 5.00 am, the original arrival time, but left after we never arrived.
After our luggage were collected and accounted for, we were led to the taxi rank outside the terminal. The summer air, hot and dry, blasted onto my face. And it had a kind of peculiar scent which I later knew came from native eucalyptus trees.
Feb 8, 1979, ~ 2.00 pm. At Perth International Airport. 3 senior Malaysian students posing with 8 of 10 JPA students who had just arrived on the delayed flight MH02 from Kuala Lumpur via Jakarta.
On direction of the ADAB officials, the taxis took us into the city, to a place called Haywin House, an inn located in Irwin Street, between Hay Street and St. George’s Terrace.
That became our lodging place for several days before ADAB completed the finding and booking of our apartments near our college in Leederville, a suburb a few kilometers north of the city center.
At Haywin house, I was put into a two-bedded room with Nor Azmi Kamaruddin from MCKK, whose hometown was Tapah, Perak. On a wall inside the room there was a strange appliance, about 2 feet long with one glass-like bar running from one end to another, and backed by a silver metal. We did not know what it was.
A wall mounted 3-bar radiant heater. I did not know what this thing was for, the first time I saw a similar appliance inside the inn room at Haywin House, Perth.
Later, one of us flicked a wall switch to turn on the room light, but no light came on.
OK. So the electricity in Australia was not that different compared to Malaysia then, putting aside the peculiar-looking electrical wall sockets and plugs.
Maybe the electricity would be turned on when it got darker.
I laid on the bed. And then I noticed that the strange appliance started glowing red and redder, and heat radiated from it. Hehe. That was our first encounter with a single-bar radiant wall heater, used to keep a room warm in cold weather.
The room was just that, a room with two beds. For calls of nature and shower, the bathroom was shared with other room, and situated at the end of the corridor. The first time I went in there to have a shower, I saw there was not one, but two water faucets on the wall in the shower cubicle.
Twin wall faucets. Hot and Cold. The labels did not indicate that turning on the Hot faucet would cause the gas-powered water heater to go "booooom".
There was also a white-colored appliance on the wall of the bathroom.
I turned on one of the faucets and a frightening sound, a booooom, came from the direction of the white-colored appliance.
I saw something like a blue fire inside the appliance. Alarmed, and to avoid any untoward incident, I quickly turned off the faucet and hastilly cancelled my shower.
Hehe. Another encounter. This time with a gas-powered water heater.
It was all new experience for me. During the pre-departure orientation camp at MRSM Seremban and briefing back in Malaysia, no one had told us about these small details.
And the day was not yet over. More surprises to come later to this kampung boy…