Posted 7 years 298 days ago ago by Admin
Meet Captain Neeraj Maden, the chief training instructor at the Institute of Flight Safety in New Delhi, India. He also pilots a MD 900 VIP-configured NOTAR helicopter for Simm Samm Airways, based out of Mumbai (also known as Bombay). The company has 27 employees that cater to an “exclusive clientele,” but Capt. Maden has another expression for the passengers. “We mainly fly the privileged and fat cats.” Maybe that description should be construed broadly, considering His Holiness the Dalai Lama was one of those passengers. The captain flew him to a mountainside temple nestled in the Himalayas.
Beginnings at 22,000 Feet
However, Capt. Maden did not always fly the well healed and lustrous to business sites and holy shrines. Rather, he first obtained his initial flight instruction in military school, after demonstrating an aptitude for English. In primary training, he obtained duel ratings in New Zealand, and still currently holds airplane and rotorcraft commercial ratings in both that country and India.
After initial training, he then spent 24 well-lived years in the Indian Army Aviation Corps, flying the fabled Aerospatiale SA-315B Llama. “The pure fun of that aircraft was absolutely amazing,” he says. “It happens to hold the world’s altitude record of 40,000-plus feet.” It also happens to hold the world’s autorotation record, accomplished after setting the altitude record when the engine flamed out.
During his military service, Capt. Maden flew to outposts along the Pakistan-India border, an area with one of the longest disputes in the history of modern governments. Since 1947, when India and Pakistan became independent of British rule, the Kashmir conflict has seen three wars and numerous fights. In 2001, he would see small arms fire diminish down below him. He recalls, “They could never quite reach us with their firearms; it was just too high for them.”
Passion Maintains Youth
Many times he flew supplies to mountain border posts. After landing, some of these outposts required climbing—or even scaling a small distance—to complete delivery. Thus, the captain developed a passion for rock climbing. To this day he still climbs for fun to feed this passion. “Do what you love and you will live longer,” is one of his mantras. It seems to work.
During our sit-down interview, he turns the tables and asks me a question, “How old do you think I am?” Realizing it’s probably not good to lie to one who has flown the Dalai Lama, I honestly answer that he looks 34, give or take a year. “No, I am 48.” I’m shocked; my taxi driver looked over 40 … and he was only 24. For Capt. Maden, the explanation as to why he has seemingly stayed much younger than his years is simple: passion delivers youth. He comes across as one calm, cool, and collected individual.
Lightening the Skids Can Enlighten
Do you know that feeling you get after a good flight? Your bird purred like a kitten as you lifted the skids into the air. The flight melded your mind with your body as your eyes engaged the flight panel while your four limbs did as your brain directed. Capt. Maden says flying makes him a more “enlightened being.” He clarifies this does not mean he thinks he’s better than others. Rather, piloting gives him gratitude for the lifestyle he has achieved and thankfulness that he gets to spend much of his life doing what he loves. This leads to mental contentment. He sees an enlightened aviator as more relaxed and happy because he has pursued his passion for the joy of flight.
Capt. Maden has already had a full flight career. Still, he doesn’t plan for it to end soon. He hopes to continue flying and has been growing his aviation consulting side work. For years to come, he plans to lighten the skids … and pursue enlightenment.