How Dato’ James Greaves Is Shaking Up Malaysia’s Sky Tour Scene

Close Up

July 10, 2017 | BY Tien Chew

The entrepreneur gets personal about his passion for flying and the 5 values that steered him to establish Cempaka Helicopter Corporation Sdn Bhd.

_MG_1388.jpg (original size)Dato' James Greaves doing pre-flight checks

A few years ago, Dato’ James Greaves and his family were on holiday in the UK. While he was at the playground of Swan Hotel with his son, he saw two couples fly in with a helicopter, had lunch at the riverside then got back in and flew off again. 

Recalling how in 2005 he had written about wanting to accomplish flying a plane, that scene was a life-changing moment. “I thought to myself, that was the coolest thing that I had ever seen. I went home, scribbled out the plane, and changed it to a helicopter,” he chuckled.

Read also: The app that lets you virtually tour a BMW from your living room

To experience the joys of flying in a helicopter, the Tatler team were invited to go onboard a Robinson R66 Turbine piloted by Greaves, who at the time seemed excited and in his element as he prepared to take us into the skies. 

_MG_1557.jpg (original size)The R66 helicopter that we sat in can fit five people – pilot included

The first leg of the panoramic journey took us from Subang Jaya’s Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport to Port Dickson’s Lexis Hibiscus Hotel. With our cameras at the ready and with AC/DC’s Back in Black album playing on one side of our headphones and flight traffic control banter on the other, we found ourselves looking at Malaysia in a new light – from a bird’s eye view to be specific. 

From a thousand feet above, we witnessed views incomparable to a plane ride. For the first time, we could see the serene beauty of the western coastline. Flying from PD to the heart of KL – Titiwangsa – gave us a chance to witness the amazing topography of mountainous areas before reaching the cityscape. As we flew into the city centre, housing areas, quarries, factories, and so much more, sprung into view.

“If everybody had the chance to see the country from this point of view (while in a helicopter), people would look after what we’ve got more,” Greaves remarked. To share the joys of flying in a chopper with others, the same sensation we had just encountered, Greaves saw a big opportunity to build a business that would allow more people to experience Malaysia as never before, with an affordable pricing scheme.

In August last year, Cempaka Helicopter Corporation Sdn Bhd was open to the public for sky tours at a number of popular tourist destinations. Kuala Lumpur has an operating outlet in Lake Titiwangsa, along with Langkawi (with plans for a presence at The Westin from July and St Regis on the island) plus Port Dickson. The business is also planning to establish a presence in Kuala Terengganu, Penang, Melaka and Johor. Greaves is already laying the bricks for expansion in traffic-heavy Jakarta, and sky tours in Bali.

_MG_1712.jpg (original size)From a thousand feet above, we witnessed views incomparable to a plane ride.

The company currently operates seven aircrafts, with two types of choppers that people can book. Information about Cempaka’s sky tour packages can be found through an app called Ascend that operates like a ride-hailing app.

“The passion for me wanting to grow this business is that it gets the most amazing feedback. Everybody that flies always ends up saying something along the lines of, ‘wow that was fantastic!’ I’ve never had a product that had such a remarkable five-star response,” enthused the go-getting entrepreneur.

Besides bestowing us the grandeur of such eye-opening sights, Greaves further elevated our impression with a memorable parting centred around his checklist for success.

Scroll through to find out these prized values.

_MG_1195.jpg (original size)Dato' James Greaves adjusting the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysical Universal Time on his wrist

“I never let the size of my dreams be diminished by others. Life is a constant challenge of trying to stay young, the smaller the head the bigger the dream and vice versa.”

_MG_1195.jpg (original size)Greaves wears a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Tribute Calendar

“If you were to imagine yourself pitching your current challenges to the successful individuals the likes of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, they would most likely tell you to get off your arse, learn from your mistakes and try it again.”

_MG_1466.jpg (original size)Greaves saw a big opportunity to build a business that would allow more people to experience Malaysia as never before

The third and fourth points that Greaves shared as reasons for his success: always be consistent, and go the extra mile.

_MG_2138.jpg (original size)Witnessing the view of the city from a helicopter is an amazing experience

“My drive comes from providing for my beautiful family – Myra, Ryan and Tahlia; and in business, the enjoyment of creation.”

_MG_1406.jpg (original size)Greaves' passion for flying is rather contagious, and we can understand why he loves flying so much

“I love start ups and the challenge of learning new things. You only get better through overcoming obstacles which sometimes includes failing.”

In case you missed it: Lo Hong Ka's Lee Yin Yen on finding her happy place with a balanced lifestyle in our June 2017 issue.

 To read the rest of the feature, pick up a copy of our July 2017 issue out at newsstands, or click here to purchase the digital copy of the magazine.

Photography: Allan Casal 
Watches: Jaeger-LeCoultre