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Hong Kong

Into another world

 

Patrycjusz Idzikowski is part of a TÜV SÜD team that travels around the globe inspecting rides at fairgrounds and in amusement parks. Right now he’s checking the safety of a very large Ferris wheel in Hong Kong—but still has a moment for a quick interview about the thrill of breathtaking heights, unintelligible menus and the world’s best job.


leg 7  ■  Shanghai ➡ Hong Kong  ■  1,400 km  ■  Arrival 16.11.2015, 6:45 a.m.  ■  travel time 95 HRS  ■  22°C  ■  total distance 43,900 km

   

Mr. Idzikowski, we’re currently in the Hong Kong Observation Wheel, overlooking the city’s harbor and the Kowloon district. Do moments like this ever cause you to take pause? 

Quite often, actually. I hear that from my colleagues all the time. You should really take the two minutes. They’re wonderful moments when you can simply enjoy them.


What’s been your best view so far?

Hong Kong is always impressive. The first time here was a fascinating experience. The location is breathtaking, up on the mountain where the cliffs drop away. But there are also beautiful places in Italy where you can see the ocean or Mount Etna from a rollercoaster or a Ferris wheel.


What exactly are you inspecting?

The team for “moving structures” that I’m a part of inspects all sorts of rides, for instance in amusement parks or at fairgrounds or carnivals. We do it all, from small children’s carousels to the big rollercoasters.

 

And you’re involved from start to finish?

Exactly. Even in the planning phases of a new installation, we check whether it fulfills the safety requirements that are set by international standards. Amusement park rides are getting increasingly spectacular, so our expertise is very important. Often we monitor the manufacturing of the installation and examine it once again before it goes into operation. And then there are standard annual inspections.

 

Down to the last detail

Down to the last detail

Patrycjusz Idzikowski, aged 39, climbs up into the smallest of crannies on amusement park rides. As the acting director of the construction engineering group at TÜV SÜD, he often recognizes defects at first glance.

 

 

It is said that experts such as yourself can recognize defects just by looking at them. Is this true?

You develop an instinct for certain situations. However it shouldn’t be confused with a myopic attitude towards our work. We all have years of experience and, as a rule, know what the critical points of these rides are. And we also know which tricks some operators use. Hard-to-find patches of rust may sometimes just be painted over. But every detail is important, especially for impressive Ferris wheels with diameters of some 60 to 80 meters.

 

So a fear of heights isn’t such a great thing in your job?

True. We often work in exposed spots, which requires a certain amount of nerve.

 

Do you still get a bit of a kick sometimes despite all the years doing this work?

At times. The work should never become routine, because that would result in an element of carelessness. We sometimes have situations in which we have to climb around on tracks or spokes where there aren’t many handholds or places to step. We’re fundamentally secured with climbing gear during the work, but even so, it’s sometimes extremely challenging.

 

Better safe than sorry

Better safe than sorry

All sorts of “moving structures” are part of his area of responsibility— including Ferris wheels, as an example.

 

 

 

But climbing is something that also you enjoy doing in your spare time.

Yes, it’s my hobby. During winters I’m in indoor halls bouldering, and in summers out in the mountains. I’m in the fortunate position of living very close to a climbing area.

 

Many people consider that adventurous. Is there anything left that scares you?

Well, with climbing, not really. But in my job, there are sometimes days when a bit of culture shock is inevitable. For instance when I had to drive a car in India. Someone may suddenly be driving head-on toward you on the highway—or someone makes a sudden turn. It’s like a leap into another world. That’s when I’m happy to be at my safe workplace.

 

Do you become really familiar with many different cultures this way?

Usually we have very long on-site workdays—from early in the morning until late in the evening. It doesn’t leave you much time. However, for major contracts we’re often there for several weeks. Then I do try to get out and learn a bit about the culture of the country.

 

What do you find especially interesting?

Anything to do with people. When, for instance, I can’t read a menu in Asia and have to do my best using hand signals to communicate. Or in Latin America, where I find the people are very open and have a zest for life and where—even out on the street—it’s easy to quickly strike up a conversation.

 

Up overhead

Join TÜV SÜD on the huge Ferris wheel in Hong Kong

 

 

Do you have to assimilate to a certain degree?

Absolutely. Cultural differences are often reflected in the way people work. I often have to restrain myself because I’m accustomed to different things. In Dubai or the United Arab Emirates, you may be put off until the next day, and then it becomes the next week. You just have to adapt accordingly.

 

Do you know how many countries you’ve been to?

My wife recently sent me a world map where you can scratch off various countries. There’s a fair bit scratched off already. Almost everywhere in Europe, the Near East, many Asian countries, the United States, Latin America. In the beginning it was fun to keep count, but I stopped doing it at some point.

 

What was your most stressful trip?

From Munich I left for two appointments in America, from there to Asia, and then back to Munich. And then the day after that, the journey continued. After a tour like that, you really need a break.

 

Are there places or appointments that you really look forward to?

Hong Kong is always a true highlight. I’m certain I’ve been here at least 25 times—and nearly every time I’m way up here at this spot on the giant Ferris wheel.