It's been more than 12 years since I first took off on an aircraft in my life, a Cessna 152 two seater. I vividly remember taking off from a grass runway in Taieri, Mosgiel located close to the city of Dunedin, New Zealand. It was a dream come true, a dream I had harboured as a little child since I was in grade 5. The vision of looking up to the sky and thinking that it is a rocket that is going into space always fascinated me.
As a kid, I remember being so interested in planes as I found them to be so magical and intriguing. However, back in the days, the internet wasn’t a luxury of life yet and there was no way to google anything for immediate answers to satisfy one's curiosity. Fortunately, my parents planned a holiday and my first ever plane ride in an Airbus 320 happened at the young age of ten. Like a shy little boy, I asked my father to request the pilot to let me see the cockpit. I still remember the joy it gave me and how mesmerised I was to see the buttons, lights and all the equipment and these pilots in crisp uniform handling it all with ease and confidence. That was the moment the penny dropped for me, and I decided at that very point that being a pilot is what I want to do. On my way back home, I shared this with my father and asked him if I could be a pilot. He smiled and nodded back of course, as most parents would.
From that time onwards, at the age of ten, this became my passion and focus and I was eagerly waiting to finish school and get those wings. Then began the real journey, it all started at the age of 17. Fortunately by then, the aviation sector had developed and we had a few airlines in India. I religiously did my homework and got around collecting all the information required to get me going towards attaining my pilot’s licence. My parents knew what it meant for me and how passionate I was about flying so we arranged the funds and off I was on a plane to New Zealand in May, 2008.
Like they say, nothing comes easy in life and like most people I had my share of problems to deal with. Being away from home for the first time in a foreign land, many things were challenging; food, culture, accent, limited cash to name a few, yet I was ever so determined and nothing could stop me. I was blessed to find Capt. John Penno with 25000 hours under him as my instructor in this small town called Dunedin.
Landing in Dunedin and entering the training school for the first time made me speechless as the thoughts of me realising my dream overwhelmed me. In a week’s time, I was in the air doing my first flying lesson - that feeling of being in the cockpit for the first time. The instructor gave me a briefing on how the flight would be and I couldn’t stop smiling. I felt the joy and happiness which I could not get over. After take off, he showed me around the city. I felt so lucky to see the city of Dunedin from the skies. We then flew over water and he gave me the aircraft to fly for the first time ever. He showed me how the change of power affects how the aircraft behaves and also how to turn with the help of the rudder. This feeling is embedded in my head and heart, something I can never get over.
After approximately 10 hours of flying, I got my first solo flight. I remember the feeling of flying the aircraft alone; the feeling of fear and happiness at the same time. I was released by the most experienced Chief Flight Instructor (CFI) of New Zealand, Mr. John Penno with more than 25,000 flying hours and when you get a boost from such an accomplished aviator, the fear reduces and the confidence level increases. It was a day to remember - the great feeling of being alone in the sky, taking off and landing three times, learning the art of throwing myself into the ground and missing it.
After gaining experience, I did my aerobatics training with John; learning how to do a loop, barrel and wing over on the aircraft, learning the limits of the machine and how much I could push it. I continued training for 8 months in heat, rains, fronts and snow and I finally took my Commercial Pilot License test. It started with questions on the ground, followed by questions while doing a walk around of the aircraft. The fact that I had gotten so far and had taken a test for which I had trained for so much and passed it in flying colors gave me such an exhilarating feeling.
After completion of my Commercial Pilot Licence, a different set of problems awaited - the real big ones like finding a job!! I soon realised that just a CPL was not enough. I had to upskill myself and get a type rating on a big bird. After speaking with many commercial pilots, I decided to go for a B737 endorsement. Off I went again but this time to the United Kingdom.
Once again studying a new aircraft, learning to fly with written and flying tests. I was training under the best Boeing instructors, and honestly it was a wonderful phase as I knew I was getting closer to my dream of becoming a commercial pilot.
Soon after, I got my first job as a commercial pilot. My parents were so proud of me, especially my father as he had seen me harbour this dream from the age of ten. I was also proud of myself and honest. I was on top of the world! I had the privilege to fly with some amazing captains and learned so much.
On 17th Nov 2016, the most important day of my life, I became Captain of B737NG. All my hard work and struggle had paid off. The feeling of joy along with the responsibility of so many lives in my hands was something beyond words.
It’s been a journey I cherish and I wouldn’t change for anything. Surely it came with it’s own ups and downs but in the end, it was all worth the effort. I can say I’m blessed to do a job that I love. It's my life and passion and it gives me immense pleasure to put on my uniform and report for my flight and make the sky my home. Now knowing that the rocket that flies in the sky is a jet engine aircraft which produced contrails by the engine exhaust.
I live by this quote by Naval Ravikant~ The People who succeed are irrationally passionate about something.