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Two new firsts for BSP (2019)

Siti Saffawana binti Haji Suhaili and Sahreme bin Idris pose with a Search and Rescue helicopter. – BSP

A MILESTONE has been achieved in the field of Search and Rescue (SAR) in Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd (BSP) as the company’s first female helicopter pilot, Siti Saffawana binti Haji Suhaili, becomes the first Bruneian SAR Commander under BSP’s Aviation Unit.


Siti Saffawana’s achievement builds upon a 12-year career with BSP, which all began after she decided she wanted to do something unique for a living after finishing her ‘A’ Levels. “I have always wanted to do something different. Then I saw a BSP advertisement for helicopter pilot trainees in the newspaper. But when I saw it was for male pilots only, it really challenged me, I know I can do it even as a woman! So I decided to pursue it,” said Siti Saffawana.

The fresh school-leaver spoke to the interviewers and persuaded them to grant her a spot at the assessment centre. She trained in the United States for a year and signed her contract with BSP as a co-pilot in 2007. That was how she became the company’s first female helicopter pilot. Ten years later in 2017, she became a commander, safely transporting passengers to the offshore platforms.

Shortly after, Siti Saffawana got into the SAR field. It took courage and perseverance to get to where she is now – a SAR Commander. She said, “I am extremely thankful for the opportunity given by BSP to further develop my career. The journey was not always easy, but the outcome is rewarding. As a woman, it is especially gratifying as the field of Search and Rescue is traditionally more male-oriented.”

From managing the aircraft, handling the patient that needs help inside the aircraft and executing the mission safely and efficiently, the challenges of being an SAR Commander also requires Siti Saffawana to be able to quickly think outside the box, especially when dealing with situations at night or when flying during thunderstorms. “Ultimately, the mission is to rescue and save lives. There’s a lot of responsibility in this.

Lives rely on our dependability, and there must be no let-up in focus. Search and Rescue work involves a lot of collaborative efforts and effective communication between myself and the people I work with, the crew members.”

Speaking on Siti Saffawana’s achievement, Head of Search and Rescue Operations at BSP Jamie Mitchell said, “When you are responsible for a high-tech aircraft and three other very talented people, that is a very big weight on your shoulders. So to have that responsibility vested in a young Bruneian is absolutely incredible. It is an achievement that she, her family and her peers should be very proud of.”

Another milestone was achieved when Sahreme bin Idris became the first Bruneian to become a qualified SAR Winchman Paramedic. Sahreme joined BSP SAR in September 2018, having previously spent four years working as a paramedic for a government hospital, and another four years as a remote site medic, onshore and rig site medic.

Sahreme completed the initial SAR winchman training offered by ACE Air & Ambulance (Pvt) Ltd in Australia. Speaking on the training, he said, “It was an immersive learning environment. I was introduced to flight procedures regarding “conning and clearances” and Confined Area Landings. I also learnt critical skills and procedures through the live hoisting training tower (LHTT) and the Wet Winch simulator. Sometimes in emergency situations, there are moments when you will have to land and perform the rescue on an unprepared, confined area. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to learn, practise and develop the vital skills required to effectively rescue a casualty from the water, in a safe and expedient manner.

“On top of the physical requirements, you need to manage the medical side too. When you are winched out, you are by yourself and you will need to make quick decisions, adapt to your surroundings and know how to react swiftly and safely.”

Managing Director of BSP Dr Ceri M Powell said, “We are immensely proud and grateful to our top-quality Search and Rescue professionals, and I am personally so proud to see the development of Saffawana and Sahreme, forging an inspirational path for others to follow.”

-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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