To 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 commander.
SIA made the significant trip during challenging times for the purpose of transporting crucial medical supplies and pharmaceutical products, among others, to the country.
“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 Mr Qingyi Chen, SilkAir’s General Manager in Nepal. “Aviation is the fastest and most reliable way to ensure essential supplies such as food and medicine reach Nepal in an ideal condition.”
Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport is considered among the world’s most challenging places to fly into mainly because of its mountainous terrain. Kathmandu is located in a valley, surrounded by steep mountains.
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 and his co-pilots were able to orientate themselves with Nepal’s unique geographical setting through the use of advanced virtual reality and prepare for the flight to Kathmandu using the same aircraft type that they were going to operate for this flight.
“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 operated into Nepal. Since the aircraft’s length measures close to 74 metres, SQ412 set the record as the longest aircraft to arrive in the country.
“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 love for his 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.