The first time I learned about the Rudolf Kapustin Memorial Scholarship was in my Aviation Safety class at the University of New South Wales.
I was in my penultimate year of Aviation Management and I was keen to grab every available opportunity as a greenhorn in the industry.
Out of curiosity, I did some research on the International Society of Air Safety Investigators (ISASI) and realised that this was an excellent extracurricular activity that would complement my learning in school, and my career in the industry. Realising that getting the scholarship would earn me an all-expense paid trip to the Hague to attend the conference, and enrolment in tuition-free courses in the UK and the US, my curiosity peaked.
I was fortunate to have Prof. Brett Molesworth to consult with and after a few sessions of exchanging ideas, my paper on Air Safety and Cyber Security was ready for submission. It was neither a topic that was discussed in aviation school nor was it an area that I possessed the technical know-hows. My paper discussed an issue that is current to our time, and regardless of the outcome, I wanted to produce a paper that would contribute to the future of aviation safety, or at the very least, start a conversation.
In September, I was on my flight to Amsterdam. I received an email about a month after the submission confirming that I was one of the recipients of the Scholarship in 2019! I was fortunate that the Dutch chapter of the ISASI was generous and had sponsored the seminar fee for the recipients.
I had opted to divert the extra funds to attend the optional tutorial, Hands on Investigation Experience, organised at TU Delft.
The Monday I was at Delft proved to be both a gratifying and overwhelming experience. I was among experts and professionals representing prestigious companies who chose to spend their day in the Netherlands being a part of a simulation. We were brought to a field where a Sirocco had crashed, and we were tasked to investigate the accident. Coming from a purely management background, I did not share their technical knowledge and I thought they may as well have discussed the investigation in Dutch because it was all very foreign to me!
Among the four recipients, I was the only one representing Australia; the rest were from the United States of America and students of Embry Riddle and University of Southern California. I was also the first one to present my paper to a conference hall filled with bright minds in attendance. I was nervous at first, ignoring any thoughts of “imposter syndrome” and reminded myself that I am the only person who knows my paper best. At one point in the presentation, I consciously decided to slow down to take in the moment – I was at the Hague, presenting to a room of professionals and experts in from all over the world. What a feeling!
It was certainly not all work and no play! I spoke to people representing UPS, Boeing, transport bureaus of the different countries, consultants working on a space project. I made it a point to get to know as many people as possible and understand what lies beyond what I knew about aviation in Australia. I had good rapport with some of them that I could easily recruit members to form a team for the Pub Quiz that the Dutch chapter had organised. We came in third! But the real win that night was having four different people from vastly different stages of their aviation careers, from Australia, USA, the UK and Brazil sit down for a dinner together at the Hague.
The seminar ended on a lavish note at the President’s Reception and Award Ceremony. Decked out in suits and evening dresses, conversations at the Kurhaus of Scheveningen were less aviation-related, but more on travel and holiday plans after the seminar. Frank, the President of the ISASI presented us with our certificates and as the evening drew to a close, it was the end of ISASI 2019.
When I look back at my time in aviation school, my experience at the ISASI 2019 seminar is one that I will always look back with great fondness. Being a student, it is easy to get tunnel-visioned into getting through each term; completing assignments, group projects and examination, and we are less-inclined to squeeze more into our hectic schedules.
Personally, my experience with the Rudolf Kapustin Memorial Scholarship and my attendance at the ISASI 2019 convinced me that involvement in the industry beyond the university is a worthwhile endeavour. Had I not taken the opportunity, I would not have been able to listen to aviation veterans across the world, and I would not have had my ideas heard by them as well.
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