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Flight Mode On (In Conversation With The Pilots - Part 2)

From living in the sky to being pulled down to ground, from crossing about 6 time zones 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 second part of 'Flight Mode On'.

 

Captain Muhammed Shoeib Shaikh, US Bangla Airlines

 

 

1. What made you choose this career path?

- Growing up in a family where both of your parents are in a medical profession, automatically in our Asian culture we follow their footsteps. But I was never pressurised to do so. When such type of questions are asked to any pilots, most of them will have the same answer, which i am sure we all know or can easily guess.

Being born and brought up abroad, from a young age I had the privilege of being a frequent flyer to come and visit my grandparents in Bangladesh every year.

I still clearly remember that during one of the visits, me and my brother were invited to visit the flight deck. There wasn’t any restrictions at that time. At that age, all I knew that the aircraft I am in is called a jumbo jet. Person sitting on the left asked us, “Are you kids scared?” We both politely answered “no”. The crews were nice and started to show few things which at that moment just went over the head. i was amazed to see how decorated the flight deck was with switches. Went back and started to tell my parents about the whole experience and at that moment my mother said “why don’t you become a pilot”. Time past by and that one visit has motivated me and made me work towards it. And with the help of my parents today I am able to achieve my aim. In this path knowledge of basically everything is needed and its a never ending process. That jumbo jet which I knew back then is known as the Queen of the sky Boeing 747. What initially started with an interest has now turned into love. And my wish is to fly the Queen of the sky one day Inshallah.

 

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

- The biggest fear some people have is height phobia, luckily for me that wasn’t an issue. I still remember that it was around 30 degrees in Spain, for weeks we had gone through the theoretical knowledge about the training aircraft which was DA40, so was thrilled  to do something which I was looking forward for years. Due to the heat and a bit of nervousness I was sweating and it caught the eyes of my instructor, surprisingly he asked me something which I heard a decade ago “ are you scared" but this time I answered him with confidence “No! It's just the heat sir".  So we started our exercise with a memory from childhood. That’s how it all started.

 

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

- All our domestic flights were cancelled. Only Guangzhou flight is still operational on weekly basis.

 

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

- I was flying and after landing back in Dhaka, found out my next flight was cancelled, which was quite upsetting. But needed to be done due to transmission of the virus.

 

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

- Being married for just over a year, and also my wife being a pilot, our schedule is very different. And at times it is hard to adjust our personal life. I would like to appreciate the affect. Spending time together and helping each other is building our relationship stronger. Now that month of Ramadan is here, I am able to fast and fulfil other obligations.

 

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

- Honestly we try to avoid clouds as much as possible, they may seem beautiful but they are quite challenging in flight. Now that Norwester is approaching, I am delighted to be on ground and admire the view .

 

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

- Every flight is a challenge, safety is our utter most priority along with other challenges. For me the best experience was having my whole family on-board in one of my flight, which truly is a blessing. Losing a pilot whom I have always admired as a father is by far my worst experience. We both took off at the same time but different destinations but only after landing back in Dhaka heard he is not coming.

 

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

- I would like to be an actor and make movies where I can play the role of a pilot.

 

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

- Right now it is not possible due to the closure of Dhaka airport as well as the UK but as soon as it opens I will go back home with my wife and see my family specially my one year old nephew.

 

10. Who is your on-ground buddy making your life easy?

- My wife and myself.

 

 

First Officer Samiha Tasnim, Biman Bangladesh Airlines

 

1. What made you choose this career path?

- I fixed my aim in life at a pretty early stage. When I started to realise that everyone needs to have an aim in life and that's how you prepare yourself for the future, at that time I decided to be a pilot. The ability to be in the sky always used to fascinate me. So, whenever we used to go for family trips, I was more excited to see what's behind the closed cockpit door than the whole trip.  My parents noticed that and thought it was just a phase and it would pass away soon. But when it was the real time to choose my profession, it did not come as a surprise to them that I wanted to be a pilot. I have been raised to be very independent.  They supported me and my dream so much. For them I could reach my goal today and the rest is history. Whenever I see any little kid with those inquisitive eyes asking me to visit the cockpit, asking so many questions -I see a flashback of myself.

 

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

- It was back in September, 2013. My instructor took me to the training aircraft which was a Cessna- 152. He showed me few flying exercises like climbing and descending and maintaining straight and level flight. I can still feel that adrenaline rush which I felt for the first time I was handed over the controls. Suddenly a voice said, “Look you know how to fly now"- which was the voice of my instructor. I was so grateful and emotional to see my childhood dream turning into a reality.

 

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

- Almost 95% of our regular flights got cancelled due to the current pandemic except for few repatriation flights. I was operating domestic flights few days before the lockdown and it was so depressing to see the airport so empty and lifeless.

 

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

- I was in my home when I came to know about the lockdown and the cancellation of flights. My husband was flying at that time. We both knew this would happen watching all other airlines cancelling their flights all over the world still it was very shocking and heart breaking to accept the reality.

 

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

- The pandemic has affected everyone's life so did mine.  I actually plan my daily activities after getting the roster for my flights. I need to stick to a routine made by me to maintain everything like managing my house, cleaning, cooking, managing time to study etc. But due to this lockdown everything has changed and at times I'm having panic attacks as well. Nowadays I wake up very late and go to sleep very late as well. One positive side of this lockdown for me is I'm being able to spend my time with my husband as we both are pilots and we don't have a fixed schedule of our lives. There are days he comes back home after a hectic day at work and I am just leaving home for flights. I get to pray on time and I am very happy about it. I could manage some time to invest on the deep cleansing of the house which is great. Cooking fancy and complicated dishes also brings joy to me. Other than that, I'm working out on a regular basis, doing some meditation and working on my spiritual investment. Some days I volunteer for the group called “ SOS for Humanity “ which is formed by the pilots of Bangladesh. We distribute “gifts” which is basically cooked meal among the people who are in need. It is a very small token of love on behalf of all the pilots of Bangladesh.

 

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

- This it is pretty much depressing. Not being able to do what I am used to do on a regular basis makes me very upset at times. The whole procedure to conduct a flight, the sound of the engine, the effort to make all the flights on time safely, the communication with the ATC (Air traffic controller ),the take offs, the landings- both good and bad, facing off the bad weather and making through it -you name it ; I miss them all. The big white clouds, the sunsets and sunrises, the night sky full of stars, the view of life threatening and dangerously beautiful storms and lightning which you can only watch in flight- I miss them as well.

I am having a mixed feeling about spending most of the time on ground. I'm getting bored and tired of being inside. On the other hand, I am grateful to be alive and to keep myself safe inside. Doing few things which I was delaying for the lack of time is making me happy and content as well.

 

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

- Every flight is an experience. You get to learn so much every day. So I have many good and bad experiences as a pilot. Flying for the national flag carrier was always a dream. After completing all our training, before we can fly as an independent individual; we need to go for a check flight which is an exam basically. After I was done with my check flight, my instructor appreciated me a lot and told me to keep up the good work. At that moment all the struggles, nervous breakdowns during the training phase and all the hard work flashed back in front of my eyes and it was all worth it.

If you ask a pilot about a bad experience, he or she definitely will mention about facing the wrath of mother nature. It was December, 2018. A cyclone developed during that time and I was proceeding towards Jashore. My captain and I, studied the weather of en-route and destination. It was perfectly fine to conduct a normal flight. Then out of nowhere, we faced severe turbulence while coming for landing. The weather radar on board was showing normal activity but the turbulence was getting out of hand. I have seen so many bad weathers but nothing like this before. It was so bad that the passengers were screaming at the top of their voices. We could not focus on the displays of the cockpit as the turbulence was something else. We decided to discontinue the landing, climbed out of the area but it was not helping. Finally, we managed to move to an area where there was no turbulence and we took a decision to come back to Dhaka considering the weather that formed within seconds was very difficult for us to predict. I was so grateful to survive this destructive game play of nature.

 

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

- To be very honest with you all, I never had any plan B. Ask any of my childhood friend-they will tell you that I always wanted to be a pilot. It seemed very unrealistic at that time as there were few female pilots but I did it Alhamdulillah.

 

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 the UK right now as me and my husband already planned a trip to the UK to see my in laws around this time of the lockdown. But obviously we had to cancel it. It has been quite a long time I have spent time with them and I miss them so much.

 

10. Who is your on-ground buddy and making your life easy?

My husband – a fellow aviator.


 

 

 

First Officer Asif Nizam, US Bangla Airlines

1. What made you choose this career path?

- Growing up, like most of the kids I too had lofty ambitions such as to become a defense personnel, scientist, athlete, engineer and what not. Apart from all these conventional occupations I had fascinations towards flying. The sound of aero planes flying by instilled a deep desire to know the secrets of the skies coupled with the opportunity to travel the world. Coming from a middle-class Bangladeshi family meant that the path I was going to pursue to fulfill my dream would be difficult one. In fact, others from similar background like mine would opt to join the air force but I wasn’t much of a fan of the comparatively strict work-life balance that military life demands, hence commercial pilot was the only way to go. I had supportive parents who would do anything to make my dream come true which is perhaps the biggest blessing in my life.

 

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

- It was one of those early chilled winter mornings, 18th Nov 2012, my first day of hands on training that begins fulfilling the requirement to complete 150 hours to be eligible to obtain commercial pilots license. The feeling was rather sweet that I could finally see myself on the cockpit. Though it was a bit scary to some extent but my basic instructor Mr. Rezwan Ahmed Khan sir made it a fun filled and engaging experience of 45 minutes in the air. I instantly embraced the freedom like a bird once I took hold of the control column, I would say it was something I will cherish all my life.

 

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

- Currently, all flights except one in the Dhaka-Guangzhou route are cancelled.

 

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

- I was having my weekly day off; I woke up from a long nap and started watching Netflix from the comfort of my bed thinking about my flight in the next day, then came the news of all these flight cancellations. We were in fact expecting something like this since the pandemic broke out and it was imminent at that point.

 

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

- The current scenario is something most of us haven’t seen before, we were so accustomed to our busy lifestyle that we took everything for granted and now reality posed us with the flipside of life. I have been maintaining social distancing and locked myself at home for almost 2 months now. I have kept myself busy exploring things I missed due to my busy schedule, not to mention that I am a much better cook now than I was 2 months ago, ha-ha ! Also, I am spending quality time with my family which I really like.

 

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

- I am in a profession which I am passionate about, I can overtly say that my comfort zone lies up there amongst the clouds, for obvious reasons I miss going on flights. In these times of despair, I just want to stay positive and wait till the pandemic is gone and we all bounce back with same energy we used to have.

 

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

- Till date, my best experience is the time when I went on my first solo flight. I am sure most of us would say the same because the thrill of taking control of a plane all by yourself for the first time is next to none. As regular pilots, we often encounter bad weather while on flights, once we were about to land on Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport but due to poor visibility we had to reroute to Osmani Int’l Airport in Sylhet only to find out worse situation there; Shah Amanat in Chattogram was not suitable either so we were forced to land in Mandalay Airport in Myanmar.

 

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

- After completion of my A 'levels, studying engineering was a more viable option. Most of my friends and classmates were getting into top engineering schools at home and abroad. If I had not made it to flying school, I reckon I would be an engineer.

 

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

- I fly frequently fly to middle east especially Doha, Qatar. I always feel captivated towards that city, the desert, beaches all those malls are mesmerizing to be honest. I also have some precious memories there which is why Doha is a special place to me.

 

10. Who is your on-ground buddy making your life easier?

- That would be my siblings, a brother and a sister. I can totally count on them. I feel relieved when I am out on flights thinking that everything back home is taken care of by them. They have been a support system always.

 

 

 

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