Commercial Pilot at Airlines

Right from my childhood, my dream was to fly Airplanes. So whatever choices I made in school was keeping this in mind. The Civil Aviation Authority of India requires an aspiring pilot to have studied Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry in Class 11 and 12 and hence I chose Science stream to fulfill the requirement.

I went to Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA), a pilot training institute in Uttar Pradesh, India. IGRUA is considered the best flying school in India. You may think of it as the IIT of flying school. To get admitted to IGRUA, you need to have a score of 55% in Physics and Mathematics in your class 12 board examinations and also clear the written tests, psychometric tests and interviews.

In spite of graduating from a prestigious college like IGRUA, the job market for commercial pilots was not great, and I could not get a job for close to 18 months. Hence I decided to up-skill myself. I chose to specialize in Airbus flights, as Airbus aircrafts were most popular at that time in India (and to an extent is still is).

My suggestion is if an approach doesn't work, instead of brooding over it and trying the same approach over and over again, quickly try and change the approach!

Looking back, the decision to upskill was a very good decision as it helped me get a job when a leading South East Asia based airline decided to launch in India.

A Pilot isn't a traditional "9 to 5" job. My day begins at 12 midnight on some days and at 12 noon on some others. We need to report at the airport an hour before the scheduled departure of a flight. It is mandatory to have had at least 14-hour breaks between flights and it is recommended that the pilot has at least 8 hours of sleep prior to flying.

After passing the mandatory breath analyzer checks, I proceed to do a visual inspection of the aircraft to check if everything is in order and verify past maintenance records for any special instructions or precautions that I need to take during flying. I then discuss the flight plan, weather forecasts, etc. with the Co-pilot/ First Officer. We then call the cabin crew (air hostess and stewards) for a briefing about the flight ahead. Flying is all about decision making under pressure - a wrong decision can cost a couple of hundred lives including my own. It indeed is a mentally and physically tiring career.

My advise to aspiring pilots:

I have two pieces of advice for those aspiring to become a pilot:

1. If you want to become a pilot for the money or the glamour, there are a plenty of other professions which can earn you the same money (perhaps more) without stressing you out. So ask yourself why you wish to be a pilot - if the answer is PASSION TO FLY, then listen to the second advise. Else my advise is to choose another career.

2. Have you done your finances right? Learning to fly isn't cheap. You may have to spend anywhere between Indian Rupees 50 Lakhs - 1 Crore to get Commercial Pilot License in India. There are some Airlines which offer a partial or full scholarship, but that may come with a 3 to 10-year bond.

Based on conversation in November 2018
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