The SKY's the limit

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It’s been an accolade-filled journey up the career ladder for Nishchol Sethi

Leut. Nishchol Sethi of the Royal Australian Navy has had a very busy year.
Nishchol Sethi.Indian Link
For starters, he has just finished his Charge Qualification as an engineer. This recognises the competence of a Navy engineer to lead an engineering department in a ship, submarine, or aircraft squadron.
“The gruelling three-hour exam comes at the end of a nerve-wracking and stressful six months of preparation, but is a significant milestone for me as Lieutenant,” Nishchol tells Indian Link.
Earlier this year, Nishchol, or Nish as he is called, successfully completed his Master of Science (Aircraft Structures) degree at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, winning a prestigious prize for an industrial design component.
Nish was handpicked by the Royal Australian Navy’s Aviation Engineering fraternity to attend the course in the UK. This prestigious posting is highly sought after and particularly competitive.
The selected candidate undertakes a challenging and technically rigorous 12 month in-country course, culminating in examinations and the submission of two theses.
Cranfield is at the forefront of postgraduate education in aerospace engineering and invites high calibre industry based guest lecturers (such as from Boeing, Airbus, BAE Systems and Eurocopter) who impart knowledge of contemporary design and engineering project management practice.
“As part of the course, students are required to design an entire aircraft from basic specifications. We work in a group, with specific responsibilities each, and go from conceptualising to designing. At the end, we present our report to a panel of 200 leading aerospace experts.”
Nishchol’s group was charged with designing a “green” (low carbon footprint) passenger aircraft, by utilising advanced technologies and design concepts to reduce harmful emissions while delivering a technically viable and cost effective aircraft design suitable for future commuter and air freight transport requirements.
Nish’s own task was to design a metallic elevator for a high T-tail empennage, which he accomplished with remarkable success.
He was able to develop a lightweight structure through the reduction of numerous sub-components normally seen within contemporary elevator design.
His methodical approach to material selection and manufacturing processes also came in for high praise.
For his work, he won the prestigious Ken Griffin Memorial Prize for “Best Work in Stress Analysis for the academic year 2013/2014”.
The Prize also recognises the additional hard work, dedication and technical mastery displayed by the recipient.
“I gained invaluable project management and analytical skills during the course,” Nish describes.
“The in-depth understanding I’ve gained of the conceptual, analytical and applied factors required in design, will be fundamental for effective performance in my recent appointment to the Directorate General Technical Airworthiness – Australian Defence Force.”
Nish gained his first Masters degree in Systems Engineering two years ago. He is currently completing his third Masters degree in Project Management.
His UK stint has helped enhance life in other ways as well. Nish met his soulmate while on the course, and when he spoke to Indian Link, he was about to fly off to India to solemnise his wedding.
Nishchol comes from a long line of faujis (military personnel). His grandad, uncle and cousins all have or have had successful military careers in India.
Nish himself hasn’t seen deployment on missions overseas yet.
“I’m looking forward to being sent to duty, though,” he reveals.
“Being an aeronautical engineering officer, there are limited to no opportunities. It’s been largely a behind-the-scenes role for me so far, predominantly ensuring technical aspects of the aircraft are addressed for safe flight.
However, there could be an opportunity in the next couple of years. The two largest ships in the Australian Navy, the mammoth Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs) HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide will provide an opportunity for deployment. It would be great to go out to sea on them.”
These vessels, 27,000 tonnes each, are some of the world’s most sophisticated air-land-sea amphibious deployment systems, capable of landing 1000 personnel and all their weapons, by water or air.
Nish has been in the Navy for just over nine years. The New Delhi-born lad finished school in Sydney and enrolled at UNSW to do a Bachelors’ degree in aeronautical engineering.
“In the last two years of my course, I applied to the Australian Navy and was very pleased to be selected,” he reveals.
“I have enjoyed it thoroughly. Yes it was a bit daunting at first, and the physical training regimen was excruciating, but I adapted very quickly.”
It is quite a multicultural workplace, he reveals. When he joined the Navy, Nish did not see many desis. More recently though, there has been a steady influx of Indian-origin servicemen.
“I would certainly recommend it as a career,” he says. “If you are driven, like to push boundaries, and are up for a challenge, then the Navy is for you. You won’t regret it.”
Just like his name, which is Sanskrit for calm, unwavering, unshakeable, it is obvious that Nishchol’s quiet confidence is what has brought him this far in his career.

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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