Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An unforgettable gesture of a Swiss Flight Engineer

An unforgettable gesture of a Swiss Flight Engineer

Good gestures by people around us make a special place in our hearts and remain in our memory for ever.   Whenever we think of them, they make us feel good and also make us realize that the world is full of good people, it is our fortune how many we come across in our life. 

This is a short story about one such an unforgettable personality, I was lucky to have met. 

Over 28 years have passed, but despite the fact that my memory is fading with age, I can not forget a memorable gesture by a gentleman, who knew that our chances of meeting again were remote, remains in my memory as fresh as if it had happened last month only. 

I would like to share those pleasant memories with you. 

In 1985, IndianOil had posted me on deputation to Male International Airport, the capital airport of Republic of Maldives.  My job involved training Maldivian officers and staff in handling and refuelling and safe aviation practices for aircraft ranging from small Otters to wide body aircraft like Boeing 747s, Lockheed Tristars and DC 10s. 

I used to be available at the apron on almost all refuelling operations, as my responsibility was to train the Maldivian Aviation Officers and staff in refuelling all type of aircraft with accurate quantity, refinery like quality and uncompromising safety. 

During the refuelling operations, I preferred standing under the tail of wide-body aircraft to observe refuelling activities as both sides of aircraft were visible from here. 

One day a DC-10 (three engine wide body 300 passenger capacity aircraft) of Balair (a subsidy of Swissair) was being serviced.  I was observing the refuelling operations from my usual position, under the tail of aircraft.  I was not aware that the flight engineer was topping up oil in the tail engine, which was 4 to 5 Meters above me.   In the process, a few drops of lube oil fell on my shirt.    

“Oh! I am so sorry Sir”, shouted the engineer rushing down from top of the ladder apologetically.  He was apologizing so much that I was feeling embarrassed.   Every time he said, “I am sorry, I spoiled your shirt.”  I felt embarrassed and repeated, "Don't worry this is an old shirt.  I was going to discard it anyway."  But his apologies were not ending. 

After about 3 months, the same engineer came on a similar flight.  Looking for me on the apron he said, “Ah! So there you are! How are you my friend?”
Handing me over the gift wrapped box, he said, “I am sorry, that day I spoiled your shirt.  "Before I could say anything he said, "You have to take it as a gift from a Swiss friend.  This shirt I have brought from Vienna, just for you.”  I was really speechless at such a warm and friendly gesture.  I told him that it was really not required but he insisted so much that I could not refuse.  I thanked him from my heart for this lovely gesture and above all, his feelings for me.  I opened the packet and found three things in it, a shirt of my size, an “I am sorry” card and a gold plated Swissair aircraft pendant for my wife.

I never met this Swiss engineer again, but his warm gesture touched my heart and further enhanced my respect for kind and gentle Swiss people.   

History is the witness that during both the World Wars, Switzerland remained neutral.  The Swiss provided medical help to injured soldiers under the banner of Red Cross. 

From this experience, I learnt that prominent features of National character are aptly visible in most of its citizens. 

-V S Saxena
 Retired Chief Aviation Manager (WR)