Thursday, 13 August 2020

No mountain too high to overcome

Singapore Airlines cargo nepal storyTo many, 23 July was a typical workday. But for Captain Rohan Hari Chandra, it was a momentous one. For the first time in more than two decades, Singapore Airlines (SIA) entered Nepal, and Captain Rohan, Chief Pilot of the airline’s Boeing 777 fleet, was SQ412’s pilot.

SIA made the significant trip during challenging times for the purpose of transporting crucial supplies – electronic equipment and pharmaceutical products, among others – to the country.

Singapore Airlines cargo nepal story
View of Kathmandu from the historic SQ flight

“Singapore and Nepal are similar because both countries obtain essential goods largely through imports. Unlike Singapore, Nepal is landlocked, and border closures as well as the monsoon season have impacted imports by road,” explains Qingyi Chen, SilkAir’s General Manager in Nepal. “Aviation is the fastest way to ensure essential supplies such as food and medicine reach Nepal in an ideal condition.”

The trip to Nepal was not without its risks. Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport is in a valley, surrounded by steep mountainous terrain. It has a single 3.3km-long runway. Poor visibility due to unpredictable weather can also add to the complexity.

Captain Rohan Hari Chandra
Captain Rohan Hari Chandra

It was Captain Rohan’s first flight there since April 1990, but the veteran pilot, who has been with SIA for 33 years, was unfazed. Using SIA’s flight simulators, he had practised the approach and landing into Kathmandu on the same aircraft type that he operated for this mission.

“We spent a considerable amount of time training and also preparing for contingencies given the challenges of flying into Nepal,” he explains. “This gave us the confidence that we were well-prepared for this special flight.”

SQ412 also marked another milestone: It was the first time a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft was operated in Nepal, setting the record for the longest aircraft to arrive in the country.

Singapore Airlines cargo nepal story
Offloading the cargo at Kathmandu

“That said, the most important ‘first’ is that this flight was not carrying passengers, but instead cargo pallets filled with essential items such as food and medical supplies that will help the country in managing the fight against the pandemic.,” Captain Rohan says.

He says the flight will always hold a special place in his heart and has fortified his passion for his work and country. “I am humbled to be able to perform such a mission because it really demonstrates the importance of aviation in challenging times like now.”

“For Nepal, [such flights are] vital in ensuring that essential goods are delivered quickly,” he adds. “And thus, aviation plays a symbolic role in re-uniting the world.”

Watch what went on during SQ412 flight to Kathmandu, Nepal below. 

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