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Flight Mode On (In Conversation With The Pilots - Part 1)

From living in the sky to being pulled down to ground, from crossing about 6 timezones to experiencing time stand still, is a transition Hebrew to all but the pilots.

Let's see what the sky heroes are doing now in this quarantine in the first part of 'Flight Mode On'.


Capt. Lubab M Sharfuddin, US Bangla Airlines

1) What made you choose this career path?

- I always wanted to lead a disciplined life and also had a big fascination for uniforms. Whenever I thought about a job, always dreamed of a career where I could have them both. Besides, I always wanted to have adventure in life. And somehow all these aspirations led me to choose flying as a career.

2) Could your share your first experience of flying a plane?

- I started taking flying lesson in Bangladesh Flying Academy more than a decade ago. And after about a year of ground classes & long anticipation I finally got the chance to start flying. I was very excited on my first day & at the same time well prepared for it. My first aircraft was in a small two-seater piper tomahawk -a popular single engine trainer. Soon after I got airborne with my instructor, lot of the initial excitement was gone and I got busy learning new things.

3) How many of your flights got cancelled due to the current situation?

- All of our scheduled flight got cancelled. Except for some special flights that my airline is conducting on humanitarian ground for repatriation of Bangladeshis form other countries and also sending foreign nationals home. We are also conducting some international cargo flights and the first airline from Bangladesh to do so.

4) When and where were you when you found out that flights were getting cancelled?

- All scheduled flights were suspended from 26th March, 2020 in Bangladesh. I was at home back then.

5) How did the pandemic affect your personal life? What does a regular day in your shoes look like today?

- Our lives are totally different than before. No pick-ups, no long duty times or no flights in challenging weather conditions. But I see it positively. I’m getting more chance to spend time with my family. I’m trying to stay active and focused as much as possible. I’m spending my time studying, exercising, eating healthy and lending hand in the regular household chores like vacuuming the floor or cleaning the toilet or helping my wife cook. I’m also trying to contribute to some novel causes and to some organizations who have come forward to stand beside people in need in this dire time.

6) You are so used to being amongst the clouds, how does it feel to be spending so much time on the ground?

- Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” Which is totally true for us. We miss flying. We miss the smell of jet fuel. And we miss our colleagues. But now it’s best for us that we stay home.

7) Could you share your best/worst experience as a pilot?

- I have been serving my company as a captain for about four years now. And in this period, I had lots of good experiences. Especially when the passengers appreciate the fact that the weather was not that good but still you manage to conduct a safe flight.

I still remember a flight that I conducted couple of years back coming from Chittagong at night. It was our last flight. We knew there was a big thunderstorm activity towards north of Dhaka and had potential to come over head and even block the entire route. We planned accordingly, took some extra fuel in case we needed to hold and expedited our departure from Chittagong to reach Dhaka before the weather hits. Unfortunately, we weren’t that lucky. the aircraft ahead of me made a go around due to bad weather.
Seeing that we choose not to go for the approach and hold towards north east (which turned out to be the correct choice later). The aircraft behind me went around too after being unable to land. And as the weather blocked the entire route, they had no choice other than to divert -leaving me the only aircraft holding. And as the weather passed towards the south we went for the approach & were successful in the first attempt in-spite of some strong winds. After landing, I saw passengers were waving at the cockpit expressing their joy. They also thanked the cabin crews during leaving the airplane. As a pilot it really makes you feel good about yourself and your profession. I say it was a good team work. Because we work as a them. And my entire team deserves the credit.
I have many good memories like this during my flying career and they motivates me to keep going.

8) If you weren’t a pilot, which profession do you see yourself in? Did you have any back up plan?

- If I weren’t in aviation, probably I could have been in the military. My father was in the army and he did pretty well in his career (he was a general). I went to a military school (cadet college) when I was young. And I also got selected by ISSB. So, good chance that I could have been following my father’s footsteps.
No, unfortunately I don’t have a backup plan. Still I’m as fascinated with aviation as I was on my first day. It’s hard to imagine about having a different career.

9) If you could fly to any place in the world right now, where would you go and why?

- I would love to go anywhere. As long as it is safe, I don’t mind flying anywhere.



First Officer Kashif Ashfaque, US Bangla Airlines


1) What made you choose this career path?

- I am currently working for US Bangla Airlines as the first officer in Boeing 737. From a very young age, I wanted to become a pilot as it is quite an interesting, adventurous, and a prestigious job.

When I talk to random people, and they ask me what I do for a living, listening to my answer, they go, “Oh wow, you’re a pilot?! I have never met a pilot in person, it is such an honour.” and conversations like that me feel satisfied with my job.

I always wanted to fly, and it may sound funny to you, but I am proud to be one of those who work from 30-40 thousand feet above the ground.

2) Could your share your first experience of flying a plane?

- After completing my A levels, I went to the Arirang flying school back in 2012. First, we had to complete our gound classes regarding PPL subjects, and then we got prepared to fly out.

It was 1st July 2013 when I first flew a Cessna 152  aircraft with a registration marking of S2AEY, and it was a very amazing experience. My instructor, Captain Imran, went along with me. He taught me when to do what, and let me control the aircraft.

It was a good experience to see clouds just beside me in the sky. Although I was just 1000 feet above the ground, watching the city from up there was beautiful. I was flying in Chittagong, so I saw the Bay of Bengal, and I have no words to explain how beautiful the view was. 

3) When and where were you when you found out that flights were getting cancelled?

- I haven’t been flying since 14th March 2020, and my last flight was from Bangkok as far as I remember. On 15th March, I went to Indonesia for my simulator  training, which every pilot has to attend every 6 months. There, I heard Malaysia was announcing a lockdown, and so I understood that all Malaysian flights will get cancelled.

I came back to Dhaka on 18th March, and that’s when I realised that all the countries around the world were going under lockdown. I was supposed to fly out on 20th March, but it got cancelled and no more flights were assigned to me.

4) How did the pandemic affect your personal life?

- I actually got married recently, so I get to spend time with my wife. I give more time to my family, having meals together. I don’t get to experience these often due to flights or being abroad. So, it feels quite nice to be home.

It does get a bit monotonous from time to time, but I am being able to fast, which I’m not allowed to on flights. I may not know how to cook, but I try to help with other household chores. So, I think, overall, it is going quite well for me.



5) You are so used to being amongst the clouds, how does it feel to be spending so much time on the ground?

- It is quite dull to be spending so much time on the ground. I sometimes don’t feel like I belong here, and I just might burst into tears the next time I get to fly. I’d be so happy, I can’t wait.

6) Could you share your best and worst experience as a pilot?

- Every flight of mine was a very good experience. There was never actually a “bad experience” but at the beginning, my performance wasn’t as great as it should have been, leading me to have nightmares. However, with increasing experience, I got the hang of it. I learned a lot, and eventually understand how to cope with unplanned situations such as delayed flights or bad weathers.

And my favourite moment would be when I was leaving  Dash-8 and the captain with whom I flew last said that he’d miss flying with me. Also, recently, I watched a captain land the plane perfextly, and when I told him that his skills are amazing, he said ‘not as much as yours’. So, I guess hearing your seniors praise your work is an honour.

7) If you weren’t a pilot, which career would you have pursued? Did you have any back up plans?

- My mom hates it when I say this, but I think I would have tried to become a musician. I used to love to sing, still do. I sometimes sing at family events or when I’m hanging out with my friends.

Up until my O levels, I was pretty serious about music, and learned how to play the guitar. Now it’s not even a hobby, it’d be something out of the blue if I sit with my guitar and start singing.

Now, I also look after my dad’s business and am trying to buy houses to rent out. But I don’t think I’d be able to do anything with as much dedication as I love flying planes.


8) If you could fly to any place in the world right now, where would you go and why?

- I’d fly out to Doha, Qatar. People refer to Doha as my first home now, and Dhaka as my second home, because I have been there so many times. I just love the places and the food there!



First Officer Asif Reza, Biman Bangladesh

1) What made you choose this career path?

- The initial spark of me wanting to become a pilot dates back to when I was only 6 years old. My father being a government officer was posted as a diplomat in Bangladesh Embassy, Kuwait. The memory of my father bringing home our passports & plane tickets is still vivid in my mind. I was overwhelmed with joy at the thought of boarding a passenger plane. I had never been on a plane before. I was young and my playful mind had a lot of unanswered questions. I was told by my parents that once inside the plane, I will not feel a thing & that the cabin is very comfortable; there would be beautiful aunties who would serve me with delicious food. As the date of the flight came closer my fantasy of flying on a plane was about to become reality. I remember saying goodbye to all my relatives who had come to see me off at the airport. We crossed the immigration, and finally made our way to the terminal & it is then I had the view of an airplane up close for the first time in my life. I stood in front of the terminal building glass, gazing at the terrific sight of the airplane. Its shear size left me to wonder how can such a heavy object fly so seamlessly in the sky. After a while, I saw two people in uniform make their way to the airplane. My father whispered into my ears “those are pilots”. As we boarded the plane, I glanced to my left & had a view of the cockpit. I was awed by the complexity of the buttons, switches and knobs. I wondered how amazing must it feel for those pilots to command such an amazing piece of machinery. This curiosity carried on to my adult life and here I am living my dream as a Pilot, Alhamdulillah.


2) Could you share your first experience of flying a plane?

- Yes, absolutely. It was back in 2013. It was a clear afternoon. My instructor took off the small 2-seater Cessna-152 training aircraft and he took me south of Chittagong. We called that our “Training Area”. Once we were there he asked me “Okay Asif are you ready to break your virginity to Aviation?”. He then handed me the controls, and for the very first time I felt what it was like to fly. I felt the magic of flight through that control yoke. It was truly magical and the best 45 minutes of my life!


3) How many of your flights got cancelled due to the current situation?

- Well almost 95% of the flights are being cancelled during this outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. Only some repatriation and special flights are being conducted in a very limited scale. Personally I haven’t flown since the lockdown started.


4) When and where were you when you found out that flights were getting cancelled?

- I was actually at home when the lockdown was announced. Seeing other major airlines closing operation worldwide we pilots were also anticipating it in Bangladesh. 


5) How did the pandemic affect your personal life? What does a regular day in your shoes look like?

- Well life has become very different. As pilots we are not used to following same schedule every day. On some days we had to wake up very early in the morning, while on other days duty started at night. Due to this lockdown, life has become more routine.

Thankfully, I also have a very active life outside of Aviation. I have been cooking for quite some time now and share my recipes & cooking videos online. Cooking has been a very good hobby of mine and keeps me busy during the lockdown. It keeps me occupied when I am not flying and gives me space to unwind. Besides cooking, I have a keen interest in fitness as well. I like to keep myself in shape by working out at home.



6) You are so used to being amongst the clouds, how does it feel to be spending so much time on the ground?

- There is nothing more I miss than flying. Every night when I go to sleep I count the days since I have last flown. That thrill of putting the engines on full thrust and taking off into the blue sky is priceless. I reminiscence all the good memories I have in the sky. From flying through fierce storms to clear sunshine I have experienced them all through the eyes of a bird. The memory of seeing the entire blue coast of Cox Bazaar in a single glimpse, or the mesmerizing sight of the city lights at night still leaves my mind in awe.

As I am spending more time on the ground, I am trying to acquire a new skill. I recently started to learn the skill of video editing. I already published a video of “Don’t Rush Challenge by Bangladeshi Pilots” in Facebook which was a massive hit. Since the upload the video has been viewed more than 800,000 viewers and shared more than 8000 users as we speak. I was the editor of the video & it gained good remarks from the audience.

You can check out the link


7) Could you share your best/worst experience as a pilot?

- Tough question! So many good experiences in my album. However, there was one incident which I shall never forget. It was the day I earned my wings & got cleared to fly a passenger plane. Basically once we finish our training, we go for a “check flight”. In a “check flight” you have an examiner seating behind you assessing you whether you have been trained properly and meet all the criteria to pilot an aircraft. To us pilots, it’s an exam that surrounds a lot of fear & anxiety as it is the final check before a pilot gets signed off to fly a passenger plane. My check flight went really well & after landing my examiner patted on my back and said “Nice Landing”. That’s when I realized I had passed.

There aren’t many bad experiences honestly. Except one time the weather was really bad, fierce  “Kal Boishakhi” storms while we were landing in Dhaka. I was thankful to be on the ground in one piece.


8) If you weren’t a pilot, which profession do you see yourself in? Did you have any backup plan?

- This is a tough one. I honestly don’t know what I’d become if I weren’t a pilot. Flying is so much part of my life. I can’t think anything other than flying, and No I did not have a backup plan.


9) If you could fly to any place in the world right now, where would you go and why?

- I would love to fly to New York someday. Seems like a long cry, but it doesn’t bother to dream right? Most of my relatives live in NY & it’d be my dream landing there with a plane.


10) Who is your on ground buddy making your life easier?

 - My significant other. 



To Be Continued. . . . .

You. Yes, you.
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