WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A PILOT: Captain Devendra Bahadur Basnet
Born in Eastern Nepal in 1963, Captain Devendra Bahadur (DB) Basnet is a renowned figure in the Nepalese sky with more than 18,000 flying hours in his career of thirty years. Apart from the four stripes on his epaulets and a prestigious insignia on his shirt, Captain Basnet is also renowned for his sporting prowess (particularly football) and an avid follower of Liverpool Football Club.
TNM caught up with the dashing Captain DB Basnet, Operation Director at Buddha Air, to find out what it takes to be a pilot.
How long have you been flying?
I have been flying for over 30 years with more than 18,000 flying hours of considerable experience in various parts of the country. I started my career with Nepal Airlines Corporation before moving to Nepal Airways and later joined Buddha Air in 1997.
Was becoming a pilot a childhood dream or a mere career choice?
I developed an interest in aviation as a child influenced by my father who was a pilot in RNAC. Well, actually, from then, I knew that my dream and ambition was to become a pilot.
Did you or your family have any second thoughts when you entered this field?
My family was very supportive and they never doubted my career choice. They provided me with the right support and encouragement. Once you trust yourself with the responsibility on your plate, then those around you will trust that you have made the right decision.
Where did you attend your course? And, how rigorous was the training?
I went to the Moncton Flight College in Canada. The Moncton Flight College is the largest private flight
school in Canada which has trained over 19,000 pilots from around the world since 1929.
The training was a difficult one and required a significant amount of dedication and focus. It required a lot of intensive training in the field of aviation itself. My passion for aviation is what got me to successfully complete the training. Today there are many institutions all over the world that offer these types of course, but to my knowledge, unlike the past, no airline will sponsor a candidate’s education anymore.
What is the most difficult location you have ever landed/ taken off? And what is the most memorable moment of your career?
Billed as one of the world’s most difficult airports for pilots, Tenzing-Hillary Airport (Lukla), at approximately 1,729 feet long, has to be the most difficult airport I have ever flown to. The approach to this high-altitude airport is via the mighty mountains and the mountainous weather conditions make for extremely hazardous flying conditions. Similarly, take-offs here are not for the faint-hearted because an aircraft has to make a steep climb to avoid a 9,200 feet drop.
For me, the most memorable moment in my career has to be the day when I flew my first solo flight and the day I got my captain wings. Well, you get the best office view in the world!
What are the pros and cons of becoming a pilot?
Piloting is a wonderful metaphor. The best part is traveling to new places while meeting many unique individuals along the way while the unwelcomed part has to be the odd flying hours. There were times I had to fly during public holidays or when I would have to wake up at three in the morning but it is something that I have become accustomed to now.
At the end of the day, the fascination of flying can’t be expressed in words. Besides the exhilaration of flying an aircraft, you also become startlingly aware of the wonderful sights below. The world from above seems too beautiful and too magnificent.
Besides the exhilaration of flying an aircraft, you also become startlingly aware of the wonderful sights below.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about your job?
One of the biggest misconceptions about being a pilot is the glamor perceived by others. Being a pilot isn’t as glamorous as one would think. Whether it’s flying two flights a day or flying six, piloting is exhausting. Actually, flying the aircraft is just a small part of what a pilot does because a pilot is also responsible for the navigation of the aircraft, the safe operation of the aircraft systems as well as navigating properly with air traffic controllers via radio.
What does it take to become a professional in this field?
Becoming a pilot can be a challenging experience and requires persistence, hard work, commitment and money. A pilot must be very knowledgeable on a variety of subjects from aircraft systems and meteorology to understanding navigation and the theory of flight. Not everyone can understand the intricacies of operating an aircraft with precision and skill, so pilots are expected to maintain currency in new techniques and procedures.
Flying is all about teamwork. Besides, other noteworthy qualities one should possess are strict discipline, good communication skills, strong leadership skills, a powerful reflex coordination and the ability to work calmly under pressure. As we all know, there is no room for errors in the sky, so safety should be given utmost priority. In the event of failure, a pilot could find him or herself out of a job.
What would you say to young men and women who have a passion for aviation?
My advice to young men and women who want to pursue a career in aviation is to take your passion very seriously because flying is an adventure. You need to stay focused and be the best that you can be from your very first day till the day you retire. If you are going to pursue it, make sure you are really serious about it because it can be a very difficult career path. It is also hard to balance family and work at the beginning. But, once your persistence pays off, you’ll have a rewarding career path ahead.
What do you think about the airports here? What aspects can be improved and how?
Even after taking into consideration that Nepal is Nepal being an under developed country, there are many improvements yet to be made. First, airports in Nepal do not have a fully operational navigation system in place. Second, majority of the airports in Nepal don’t have a proper fire and rescue department. And at last, most of our airports are dying alone, not because of air traffic but due to lack of proper infrastructures. We need airports which are above all comfortable, with good facilities and good service.
But once your persistence pays off, you’ll have a rewarding career path ahead.
On a lighter note, how necessary is it really to turn off your electronic devices while on a flight?
Switching off your electronic devices is quite necessary because they can disrupt the navigation and communication systems of the aircraft. I can clearly hear through the radio if anyone is making or receiving a phone call. Even though recent aircrafts are shielded, cell phones and laptops emit quite a bit of interference to affect aircraft communications, navigation, flight control and electronic equipment.
PHOTOS: BIBHAS MAHARJAN SUWAL