07. 06
Nikolay Kharytonov: “I have been trained as a professional pilot in the UH”

In 2008 Ukrainian Helicopters began their operations in the UN peacekeeping mission in Ivory Cost. It was then when a co-pilot Nikolay Kharytonov got the job in the Company. He told us about his experience in ONUCI mission and compared it with other UN missions he has worked in.

 Nikolay Kharytonov: “I have been trained as a professional pilot in the UH”

 - Nikolay, is there any difference between the UN mission in Ivory Cost and others you have worked in?

 - As a Ukrainian Helicopters' co-pilot I have worked in Sudan, have been twice in the Republic of Haiti and once in the Southern Sudan. The UN mission in Ivory Cost had a lot of surprises for me. The way the working process is organized there is much better than in Sudan. Our helicopters have standard routine flights there and they can not be qualified as the flights that require creative approach or those that improve the pilots' skills. In Sudan the situation is constantly changing, sand adds to it too, thus it creates additional complexities and therefore you have to work on your skills. Storms in Ivory Cost help us to keep polishing our skills.

- Have your ever performed life-risky tasks?

- Company helicopters often transport ill or wounded passengers, but it is not dangerous for the crew. I remember only one incident that happened to me when I was in the army. We were relocating a seriously sick patient from one hospital to another. In supporting documents it was stated that this passenger had to be transported separately and his face must be covered on with a wet cloth, as he was suffering from infectious disease. The doctors even couldn't make a final diagnosis and decided just to send him to another hospital. The flight took only six minutes but for us it looked like the whole hour. Fortunately, the crew is all right. Nevertheless, after the flight the cabin was immediately disinfected.

- Did you have a chance to fly any celebrities or officials?

 - Once we landed on the remote helipad in Sudan and our helicopter was surrounded by almost all inhabitants of the nearest village. We thought that they were seeing somebody very important off, so we asked: " Who is it that we are flying today" and received an answer "Our king". You can imagine how surprised we were when we checked a passenger's list and saw that in the line Passenger's position there was 'King'. In a few minutes we saw the king himself wearing slippers made of goat skin with leopard print. That was the only thing that distinguished him from his tribesmen.


The crew of UR-CHB helicopter: aircraft commander Alexander Jutnik, co-pilot Nikolay Kharitonov, flight engineer Pavel Vosnuj, flight attendant Roman Konnov.


- Are there any changes in the Company for you personally for five years you've spent here?

- I've significantly improved my flying skills In Ukrainian Helicopters. I retired from army with a little bit more than 5 southend flight hours, and most of the time then I performed the duties of a translator. At the same time my flight time in Ukrainian Helicopters tripled within five years. That is why I believe that I polished my skills and became a professional pilot in UH.


There are many helicopters companies in the market and normally they have certain requirements to potential candidates including specific number of logged hours, working experience and clearance for some kinds of operations. You will get a job there only If you meet all these requirements. Ukrainian Helicopters teach pilots English, give them practical and theoretical training. No one in Ukrainian market does this. Frankly speaking, I appreciate this very much. .

 - Many people think that it is very difficult to work in Africa due to harsh climate and unstable political situation in many African countries. Do you agree?

-- I don't think so. I have been really impressed by this continent. When I came there for the first time as an army peacekeeper, my captain said that Africa either accepts you, and this happens once and for ever or it doesn't and then you will never want to come back. Africa did accept me and I got used to this lifestyle and I can't imaging anything else for me.


This picture was taken by Nikolay Kharitonov from the helicopter cabin


-  What does your family think about your long-term missions?

  - They miss me during my four-month absence. But after I spend some three –four months in Ukraine my wife would normally look at me and would ask "Is it time to go?". My family understands that there is slim chance for me to work as a pilot in Ukraine. I live in a small town of Ochakov where it is very difficult to find a job and I can't live on the retirement pay: I am too young for this.

- How do you spend your vacation?

- When I am back in Ukraine I take my wife and my daughter and we drive to the Crimea, Lvov or Odessa. My daughter enjoys staying in hotels, it's the adventure for her. And we bring a magnet from every trip; we have quite a collection of them already.

- Besides being a good pilot, you are a good photographer too and even have some fans of your pictures...

- My family are my biggest fans. After each mission I print my best pictures and we usually get together to look through them. My wife and daughter are very critical of my art, very often they come up with very useful recommendations. Fortunately, I work in exotic places where there is a lot worth being filmed to impress friends in Ukraine with unusual landscapes and images.