Even at the age of 62, Harlan Rubby’s commitment in keeping sustainable forest remains, even if he does this from the air.
Harlan Rubby is a water bombing helicopter pilot at APP Sinar Mas who is responsible for taking care of land and forest fires through the air, using the water bombing method to ensure that the fire does not spread either to the company's operational areas or to local residents.
"We need to be always in the ready mode every day in all conditions to ensure that the fire that occurs can be immediately anticipated so that the impact is not detrimental and the community can do their normal activities in comfort," Harlan said.
Flying a Bell 412 Heli Patrol is not difficult for Harlan with his 39 years of experience as a helicopter pilot. Prior to joining APP Sinar Mas, Harlan was also part of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB).
“The first time I decided to become a water bombing helicopter pilot was in 1999. At that time the term water bombing was not yet popular. I just became a water bombing pilot when there was a need to extinguish the fires in East Kalimantan to protect orangutan habitat," Harlan said.
"There was not a single pilot in Indonesia who could carry out water bombing. So at that time there were only four of us in Indonesia and 1 more guy from abroad which we were trained by experts from Australia," Harlan said.
Putting Fire Out of the Air
Flying a water bombing helicopter is not like flying an ordinary helicopter. It takes special skills to be able to control the helicopter in the air, especially when doing the water bombing plus when there are sudden events.
"The regulation for a helicopter pilot has a limit of 5 hours flying per day If the distance is approximately 3-3.5 hours round trip, then the time we have to extinguish the fire is around 1-1.5 hours to ensure the fire has been completely extinguished," Harlan said.
Carrying a load of water in a bucket that can carry up to 5,000 liters is also a challenge for this father of 5 children and grandfather of 2 grandchildren. The reason is that it is not an easy thing to keep helicopters stable in the air with heavy loads, plus when facing challenging terrain such as narrow locations and others. However, for Harlan, the readiness of his team as well as the APP Sinar Mas fire fighting team on the ground is very reliable, so he does not have to worry if there are sudden events.
“Forest and land fires are a loss for all of us. That's why I always remind the people around me to both protect our beloved environment, one of which is by not burning the land,” Harlan said.