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Balban Sabir




Information Technology

By Syed M. Aslam
Jul 03 - 09, 2000

Balban Sabir is the youngest Captain ever to fly Fokker F-27 aircraft at the age of 24 in Pakistan.

Captain Balban joined Pakistan Air Force as GD pilot in January 1983. Trained at PAF College Sargodha, PAF Academy Risalpur, he has flown a wide range of aircraft including propellers, T-37 jets and fighter planes including MFI-17 (Saab), FT-5 (MIG 17), F-6 (MIG 19) as combat pilot. He was transferred to Pakistan Navy in 1991 and flown maritime surveillance aircraft including Fokker F-27 and BN-2T Islander.

During his nine-year association with the PAF and three-year association with the Pakistan Naval Air Arm he has carried out assignments which included formation flying missions, ferried VVIPs/VIPs passengers and cargo, aerial photographic and Search and Rescue missions, and Anti-Surface Vessel Missions for fighters. His assignments also included maritime patrol/surveillance to check anti-narcotics and anti-smuggling as well as fishery protection.

After his premature retirement as a Lieutenant from the PAF he worked for Triangle Airlines, Saudi Arabian private airline owned by the Royal as line pilot flying cargo feeder service for Federal Express throughout the Middle East. Today he works as a pilot with Edhi Air Ambulance service whose fleet comprise three aircraft; Cessna 402 and Piper Seneca, both fixed-wing aircraft, and a Bell Jet-Ranger Helicopter.

Captain Balban has not only logged in over 2,500 flying hours on various types of aircraft but has also completed a number of aviation courses from the UK.

PAGE: You have an usual name. What does it mean?

Captain Balban: My father is a Turkish scholar and that explains the reason for me and all my brothers having such unusual names. Balban in Turkish language means 'big bird.'

PAGE: Your appearance is deceiving — you look too young to be a retired PAF pilot. How old were you when you joined the service.?

Captain Balban: I was not yet sixteen years old when I joined the PAF. I was still a student at Adamjee Science College, Karachi when I applied for and got selected for the commission in the PAF as GD pilot. I was not able to finish my High School. However, I completed my Bachelor in Aero- Sciences and Masters in International Relations from Peshawar and Karachi University respectively while still in service.

PAGE: What prompted you to choose flying as your profession?

Captain Balban: I am afraid my response to this particular question would sound like a form reply but I must say that flying always fascinated me since my childhood. What fascinated me more than flying itself was to see myself in PAF flying gear. A part of this dream came true when I was selected by the PAF but the whole of it only became a reality when I was decorated with the PAF flying wing by the late General Akhtar Abdul Rehman. I am still on the emergency list of the Forces and am ready to serve my country at the briefest calling.

PAGE: How do you like your present job?

Captain Balban: Edhi Air Ambulance has been actively involved in providing unique humanitarian services such as timely evacuations in emergencies and accidents as well as disaster relief operations throughout the country. It gives me immense personal as well as professional satisfaction to be a part of Edhi Air Ambulance service.

PAGE: As an Edhi Ambulance pilot you have witnessed the recent human suffering that drought has caused in many areas of Sindh and Balochistan. How bad was the situation?

Captain Balban: It has been bad, very bad. I have been an eye witness to this tragedy which has taken a heavy human toll on the people who were residing in the hard-to-reach areas of Balochistan. I was engaged in relief operations, flying medicines and relief goods to some of the worst drought-hit areas of Balochistan such as Dal Bandin, Noshki and suburban Quetta. The desert terrain and the wind storms posed immense challenges for relief operations in an all-desert terrain where wind storms made it almost impossible to provide succour to the worst affected people. People have lost cattle, the primary means of their livelihood.

PAGE: Besides pursuing your aviation career as pilot you have also written research papers. What have been your special field of interest?

Captain Balban: I have written research papers on the history of maritime aviation, low level maritime surveillance missions and Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System. I am also a member of the Executive Council of Royal Aeronautical Society, Pakistan Division and have been actively involved in organising a number of seminars, lectures and programmes. At present, I am busy in organising the 9th National Aeronautical Conference which will be held at PAF Academy Risalpur in November this year.

PAGE: What are your future plans?

Captain Balban: I want to pursue my career as an aviator with an airline or with the United Nations. Most of all, I want to be the first Pakistani astronaut to undertake a journey in the space.