Around the world, the PANTHER participates in traditional welcome rituals, either as a skin performer or in the role of co-celebrant.
Hal Airport Bengaluru, India. Over the past few days, members of the airport fire department have completed their initial training and familiarization on their new emergency vehicles, and now they are getting the two PANTHERS ready for the handover and familiarization ceremony. They are decorated with flowers, garlands and banana leaves and adorned with swastikas, a red cross symbol that in Hinduism stands for sun and life and is said to bring good luck. Small offerings, fruits and coconuts, are laid out on the ground in front of the vehicles, then the Hindu priest arrives to lead the ceremony called puja. He circles the PANTHER three times, climbs into the cabins, sticks his head into the equipment rooms, and while doing so, scattering rice and grains on the vehicles, incessantly recites mantras: May all the journeys go well, accident-free and without harm. Finally, the fruits and nuts are broken on the ground and all those who participated in the ceremony receive a red dot on the forehead. A commemorative photo, and the new PANTHERS can begin their service with the assistance of the gods.
Pushback ceremony in the USA
Rituals like the Hindu puja also exist in the Christian tradition of Europe, where new fire engines are blessed by a priest and dedicated to a patron saint - usually St. Florian - before they begin their operational lives. In the USA, on the other hand, new vehicles are welcomed with the traditional Pushback Ceremony. This involves firefighters gathering with friends and family members and pushing them backwards into the guards. This is what happened recently with the PANTHER at Waukegan National Airport in Illinois, Robins Airforce Base in Georgia and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, to name just a few examples. The ceremony dates back to the 19th century, when hand-pressure and steam fire engines were still pulled by horses and the teams had to be pushed backwards into the firehouses after their missions.
Shinto celebration in Japan
Even the retirement of the PANTHER has been the occasion for a ceremony. The very first vehicle was in service at Kansai International Airport for nineteen years, and the operators were so pleased that they gave it a place of honor in a Shinto shrine at the airport after it was retired. Not in full size, there wouldn't have been that much room, but with pictures, the original type plate and, representing the whole vehicle, the roof-mounted launcher as a kind of offering.
"Water baptisms" worldwide
But it doesn't have to be the PANTHER itself to which a ceremony is dedicated. Much more often it provides the right setting, keyword "Water Salute". This involves two vehicles lining up opposite each other and conjuring up an arc of water in the air the moment an aircraft passes between them. If the two water fountains then meet precisely above the aircraft, the chances are good that the action will be included in the list of the most spectacular Water Salutes (https://www.anna.aero/arch-of-triumph).
The water baptism ceremony dates back to the maritime tradition of ship christenings and was adopted by airlines in the second half of the 20th century. Every time a new flight route is opened and the inaugural flight takes place, when a route is served for the last time, when a long-serving aircraft captain makes his or her final landing, as well as on the maiden flight of a new aircraft model or when a very special flight (e.g., the longest nonstop flight) is made, airport fire trucks go out for the salute. Worldwide. For example, a special welcome was given to medical professionals who had traveled to Wuhan to support their colleagues after the outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic and returned to Beijing. In their honor, not two, but six PANTHERS joined in the welcome.
Pushback-Zeremonie, Fort Lauderdale, USA.
Preparation of the vehicle blessing (puja ceremony) in Bengaluru, India.
Place of honor at the Shinto shrine at Kansai International Airport in Japan.
"Water Salute" in Budapest, Hungary.