/Fire and Fury – In one of the toughest jobs in Aviation

Fire and Fury – In one of the toughest jobs in Aviation

Madhu Sudan Thapa has been a prolific member of Aviation Rescue and Firefighting at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) for over five years. Madhu is also the Country Representative of Aviation Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) Working Group-USA for Nepal under Section 10.

“I have always loved challenging jobs since my childhood and this gave me an opportunity to explore myself and face my fears as well.”

1. What attracted you to this extremely challenging and risky profession?
After my high school, I was planning to go abroad but then, I came across a vacancy on aviation firefighting and I was well acquainted with the job, as my father too was
a Senior Fire Officer. Right from my childhood, I used to visit TIA fire station and I used to scan through various documents related to aviation fire and rescue, which fascinated me. So, yeah, here I am – inspired by my father.

2. What were the challenges you faced in the initial days of your career as a fire fighter?
As firefighting is a lifesaving job, in the initial days, I was more interested to learn about aviation firefighting and explore new things. I have always loved challenging jobs since my childhood and this gave me an opportunity to explore myself and face my fears as well. As firefighting is a teamwork, we face challenges in a group and we help each other – so eventually it is not that challenging after all because of the teamwork involved. I would say that I have been rather excited by the challenges and it has enabled me to evolve as a person.

3. Have you discovered or ever had a source of support or inspiration for this
I have two very important people who have helped me throughout my career. My former Shift In-charge, Mr. Bhola Bdr. Regmi, and the Fire Chief, Kim T. Olson (Copenhagen Airport, Rescue and Fire Academy) have been motivating me from the early days and have been supporting me on various fire- related activities. I would also like to thank my parents who have been supporting me and guiding me throughout my life.

4. What is the difference between then and now in this field?
As firefighting plays a vital role during emergencies, with time our training facilities have gotten better. The firefighting equipment we currently have does match the standards but I still feel, we should adapt advanced Firefighting equipment and accommodate swiftly with changing times, as no one knows what is next. As part of the ARFF (Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting) team, we should be prepared to face every difficulties and challenges we face in the most equipped way.

5. What do you think is lacking in firefighting in Nepal?
In Nepal, we do not have afire code and the government has not implemented rules and regulations regarding fire safety. In the city area, due to urbanization, each day there are many fire incidents and we do not have sufficient fire vehicles, which has been creating a lot of risks as well as potential dangers in a congested city like Kathmandu. We need well-
trained human resources and at the same time, we need to conduct general people
awareness. Firefighting vehicles too are very low in number. We need to uplift
(uplift or change?) a lot of things to help sort out these issues.

6. What has been the most critical rescue operation you have been part of?
I have never faced anything that critical, but there was this time when Airbus A330
of Turkish Airlines skidded off the runway and the front landing gear had collapsed.
There was no sign of fire but we are still taught to spray firefighting foam onto the
aircraft. That foam is used as a fire suppressant. Its role is to cool the fire and to coat the
fuel – preventing its contact with oxygen that would then suppress the combustion. The slides of the aircraft had come down and passengers were making their way down, scared and terrified. We had to calm them down and escort them to safety.

7. What has this profession taught you?
The most important thing I have learnt, I would say, is to understand the value of life. Life is full of uncertainties. One can never know when his or her time is up, so I have learnt to manage time, love the people around, and handle what life throws at us – giving our best.

8. Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?
I am an aviation person and I hope to remain in this profession for the rest of my
life. I have put in a lot of effort to be here and I am enjoying and at the same time learning
many things as well. I have been to many international conferences and have taken firefighting classes in Denmark and India too. I wish to be involved in aviation as long as I am fit and fine. I also want to study aviation management, but this course is not available in Nepal right now but I still hope to achieve it someday in future when the right time comes.

9. What would you like to say to people interested in this profession?
I would absolutely urge them to take the challenge on in ARFF, however it has its share of difficulties and hazards. Having said that, it conveys immense self-regard and self-pride. This profession has many challenges and one has to be very focused and concentrated when performing the duty. The reward is of course incredible. You should be physically robust and rationally grounded since your calling is a war against flame and you have a gigantic duty to save people’s lives. The feeling that you experience after saving someone’s life cannot be described in words. It has its own euphoria. This motivates you and goads you to do better. You get to learn many things whether that be about life or people or situations.

10. What message would you like to give to Sky Diary Nepal?
Sky Diary Nepal is something that has evolved to motivate and fill the aviation gap in the young generation and something that I am really proud of Seeing young
energetic aviation enthusiasts involved in a field like this gives me happiness. I will be trying to contribute to Sky Diary Nepal as much as I can. I hope Sky Diary Nepal promotes Nepali aviation – not only in Nepal but also in an international level. I wish you all the best.