Flying to more countries than any other airline, Turkish Airlines introduced millions to the striking achievement of Necdet Turhan, the first blind mountaineer in Turkey, with its film The Summit.
Mountaineering is a venture whose challenge lies far beyond the fact that the individual braves a mass which is 2,000 times bigger than him/her. Imagine this: first, you challenge your own boundaries, and then set out on a tough journey about which you know nothing. Most of the time, you cross paths with the thing you fear the most -walking on the edge of a cliff even a mountain goat would avoid, climbing high and steep rocks, being exposed to blizzards, storms, and the freezing cold, and proceeding surrounded by the threat of an avalanche… None of these count as a surprise; on the contrary, they are the reality of this journey. You will either move forward to overcome all obstacles and reach the summit, or you will go back.
If you’re strong, agile, and fearless, can stand the cold, and have enough training, you can climb almost every rock you see and reach even the toughest summits. But what happens when you cannot see?
Having lost his sight at the age of 23, marathon runner and national athlete Necdet Turhan is the first blind mountaineer in Turkey. Although he regards himself as an athlete, he’s actually a hero who has climbed mountains he has never seen and is featured in the new Turkish Airlines commercial filmed at an altitude of 4,800 meters.
Necdet Turhan’s life in sports begins during his college years. While studying at the Middle East Technical University Department of Public Administration, from which he graduated cum laude, he joined the university’s Mountaineering and Winter Sports Community. His friends believed he could not deal with the mountains, and he himself had no idea how to do it. Still, he paid no heed to discouragement and searched for an answer. He never gave up or lost heart no matter how tough the training became. He was guided by the light of the knowledge that a blind person could not take a step without creating mental pictures first. He could instantly draw a mental picture of a rock, a path, or any detail about a mountain as long as someone described it to him. Next, it was time to hit the road. He invented a technique with two batons and the sound of bells. He received rock climbing training and got used to walking alone on every surface. He then took an interest in athletics because mountaineering required physical conditioning. For the marathon, he had no special technique and had to run like every other participant. He solved this problem by running while holding the arm of his guide. He even set himself a new goal while continuing his training runs at Bursa Atatürk Stadium -Five Continents: Five Marathons and Five Summits!
There is a word in Persian for the blind -it’s “ruşendil” which means “those with an illuminated heart; seeing with his/her heart.” Painting a mental picture of what his heart sees, with the Turkish flag either in his hand or on his chest, Necdet Turhan completed the New York, Sydney, and Athens Classics; the Japan International Blind Marathon; and the Egypt-Luxor Marathons. He also climbed Mount Ağrı, Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, Mount Sherman in Colorado, and Kosciusko in Australia. To borrow his words, this was his “15-year-old dream come true,” and he achieved what he saw through his heart.
Pleasantly enough, in the course of those 15 years, Turkish Airlines increased the number of its destinations to 310 in five continents, reaching the summit of the aviation industry by earning the title “The Airline That Flies to More Countries Than Any Other.”
Around that time, the national flag carrier survived all major crises that shook the world and the civil aviation industry by growing even bigger. It kept its progress on the rise by increasing the number of aircraft in its fleet from 66 to 334 and the number of passengers from 10 million to over 75 million. Following these crowning achievements, Turkish Airlines found a new home at Istanbul Airport and strong opportunities to further improve its service quality. Just before the 86th anniversary of its foundation, the airline shared its pride and happiness with a new commercial titled The Summit.
Released in Turkey in March, The Summit portrays Necdet Turhan who, after a challenging climb, waves the Turkish flag on the summit of Mont Blanc. Upon hearing the sound of a Turkish Airlines aircraft soaring above him, he turns his head towards the sky, to the plane. These scenes emphasize the dedication and pride in being a flag carrier with the line: “The ones who carry the flag higher, cross paths anywhere.”
There are six versions of the commercial, varying in length between six and 120 seconds, to be used in different platforms. The version, which will be released on global platforms in April, will end with a quote by Mawlana, “Begin a journey into yourself.”
As Told by Necdet Turhan
Necdet Turhan told us about what he felt during the filming of The Summit, directed by mountaineer and director Renan Öztürk who was featured in Skylife’s March issue:
“I had climbed Mont Blanc before, but I was very excited to visit here again as part of a project with Turkish Airlines. I was also happy to have had Renan Öztürk there and to be part of such a lovely project as a blind person. Turkish Airlines is our flag carrier; therefore, I am honored to play a role in its commercial.”
Renan Öztürk’s Perspective
The Summit was directed by Renan Öztürk, who is a National Geographic photographer and a Sundance-awarded filmmaker and director of photography. As part of the team of three mountaineers to see the summit of the 'Sharks Fin' of Mount Meru, which has never been climbed before, Öztürk talks about the commercial he directed by saying, “I knew it had to be shot in a real mountain environment. No studios or green screens. Just blood, sweat, and tears. I knew that whatever conditions we were looking for the high Alps would provide. As a climber and director, I knew the risks we were taking by putting ourselves in such extreme conditions. The volatile weather was a blessing, allowing us to show the diverse conditions Necdet had to endure. It was also our biggest curse. In filmmaking and climbing alike, there’s no reward without risk. And with an all-star crew, expert mountain guides, and fearless talent, we were able to walk away safely with something incredibly powerful. I truly hope Necdet's story will inspire viewers to climb higher and to experience the absolute most that life has to offer.”