In the late 1960s, Dr. Parvez Kumar worked on the first Airbus A300, the world’s first twin-engine wide-body plane. He was in charge of helping design the wings. (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)

In the late 1960s, Dr. Parvez Kumar worked on the first Airbus A300, the world’s first twin-engine wide-body plane. He was in charge of helping design the wings. (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)

Head in the clouds: Sooke resident recalls former career as astronaut training officer

Dr. Parvez Kumar trained Canadians Chris Hadfield and Julie Payette

Dr. Parvez Kumar was flying above the English skies in the late 1960s when all of a sudden, his world went black.

The Sooke resident snapped back into consciousness moments later, with the bite of cold air hitting his face and his side window open. The plane he was doing acrobatics in was now hurtling towards the ground.

With a burst of adrenaline, his years of training kicked into gear, and he somehow managed to regain control of the diving mass of metal and landed the plane in an airfield.

“I was shaking like hell,” said Kumar, a retired aeronautic engineer. “All the confidence I had prior was blown away in an instant. I squeaked away with my life that day.”

Kumar later discovered he likely strangled himself with the seatbelt buckles that crisscrossed around his torso and shoulders. Even though he was in the prime of his life, he regained consciousness only because his harness loosened from his neck while in free-fall.

Kumar said that was one of the five times he faced death.

READ MORE: VIDEO: Eagle feather from B.C. flew to space with Canadian astronaut

Now in his early 80s, Kumar spends a portion of his days compiling his memories from decades past into PowerPoint and written articles for his friends and family to look at when he dies one day.

Growing up in England, he completed his doctoral research in aerodynamic ground effect and its impact on the stability of aircraft, hovercraft, and vehicles.

Though he hasn’t been to space, he’s been associated with NASA for 25 years and has worked for Canada’s National Research Council and the Canadian Space Agency.

“One of the best things is that I’ve never had to look for a job,” Kumar said. “I was always approached by someone, which is how I ended up in Canada. We [Canadian Space Agency] wanted to produce the best astronauts in the world, and that was my goal.”

He was the training officer for the Canadian astronaut program. One class in the early 1990s included both well-known astronauts Chris Hadfield and Julie Payette, now Governor General.

Parvez’s first class included federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau, who ended up being the first Canadian astronaut to fly in space in 1984.

“What I admired most about Parvez, apart from his unquestioned technical competence, was his enthusiasm and his team spirit as he helped us take our first tentative steps,” Garneau said in a statement.

“This was all brand new for Canada and none of us knew much about the adventure on which we were embarking. He should be proud of the critical role he played as the astronaut program successfully took flight with the entire country watching.”

RELATED: ‘Canada is going to the moon’: Trudeau announce partnership in NASA-led quest

In the late 1960s, Kumar worked on the first Airbus A300, the world’s first twin-engine wide-body plane. He was in charge of helping design the wings.

“It’s the most important part,” Kumar said. “Being involved in space and aeronautics, you always take that risk with your life and others.”

The Sooke resident recalls losing a friend who was a test pilot on the prototype of the Bombardier Challenger 600, a series of business jets. The plane crashed in California’s Mojave Desert in April 1980 after falling into a deep stall, in which a plane can lock into position, and recovery is nearly impossible.

Kumar walked away from his position with Transport Canada after it refused to listen to his recommendation of adding a tail parachute.

Looking ahead, Kumar is hopeful about the development of supersonic passenger jets and the potential to send a human mission to Mars.

Until then, he’s taking life at a slower pace since moving to Sooke with his wife in 2004. Since his retirement, he’s self-published an autobiography, spends time out in nature, and relaxes in the gazebo he built on their property.

Sometimes when he stares at the sky, he’s taken back to his childhood. He hears the roar of British fighter aircraft, like Spitfires or Hurricanes, dreaming of the day he also can be in the clouds too.

ALSO READ: VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket


@iaaronguillen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Aviation and spaceSooke

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

.
LETTER: Anti-semitism definition lacking

Re: We must identify anti-Semitism and combat it (Online, Feb. 26) I… Continue reading

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read