Self-Discovery – Part 1

In Flight

I learned to fly a plane when I was 21! That’s when I discovered that I could actually do just about anything I made up my mind to do. Flying wasn’t easy. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but it was only when I began taking flying lessons that I realised it was not all that simple.

When I was 13, I looked up and gazed at them flyin’ airplanes. I remember the afternoon — I was floating leisurely on my back in the swimming pool. It was at the Clubhouse on the estate I grew up in. I was facing the sky and saw an aeroplane in the sky. I thought to myself, “How cool would it be to become a pilot and fly around a lot? I would never get bored and the pay would be great too!” And so, I made up my mind. I wanted to become a pilot. I was sure about it like I had never been sure of anything else before. Supportive parents (Seetha and Tarakesan) saved up for my dream and allowed me to chase and catch it. Flying has always been expensive. But their commitment to support my dream enabled me to get my Private Pilot’s License (PPL). They sent me to the US of A just to pursue this dream. I stayed with an awesome couple there who are our family friends — Maryrose and her husband Dr. Lionel J. Nair. Not only were they immensely hospitable, but they also included me in to their daily life and were like a second set of parents/friends to me. They empowered me to be independent and confident and get physically fit. My international driving license came in handy as I was able to drive myself to and from the flying school in their spare car. Things couldn’t have come together better for me and I remain grateful till date for all of this.

I flew a Cessna 172, which is a single engine, propellor-driven aircraft. I learned to fly primarily under the tutelage of two instructors – Joel A. Rogers and later, a wonderful senior pilot – (Late) Mr. Chuck Lundy. I learned to fly at an airport that was located on a mountain top. I guess they chopped off the top of that hill in Charleston, West Virginia, USA and laid the airport on it! The runways were flat alright, but the approach was subject to crosswinds, down drafts and what not.

With my flying instructor Mr. Chuck Lundy, who saw me through to the PPL stage

During my first solo flight (Wherein, you take off and land 3 times in succession without an instructor beside you), my instructor Joel who was pacing the lobby of the airport terminal, found me coming in too low on my second approach and apparently closed his eyes muttering, “Oh, I cannot watch.”

There were guidance lights on the edge of the runway to indicate if the angle of approach to landing was ideal. Too low meant I saw ‘red over red’ lights on the runway and I was told to read that as “Red Over Red, You’re Dead,” whereas “Red over White, You’re Alright” was the slogan for the ideal angle.  On my second approach, I saw the ‘red over red’ warning and gave the engine a bit of power to get me higher, to a better landing angle and not crash in to the mountain side(!). I remember singing “Dum Maro Dum” to keep my confidence high. It worked. I am still here many years later, right? Hare Krishna Hare Ram. 😀

I feel I cannot describe the feeling of actually flying a plane, well enough. My heart felt free, my mind felt sharp and my body was on guard. My eyes drank in the wonderful country side of West Virgina and I felt pure joy and triumph after each landing. By the way, taking off is far easier than landing. Kind of like anything you set out to do. Once you get over the ‘starting problem’, sustenance and seeing something through become the next big challenges. Lessons that apply for life and in business too.

To sum up, the time I spent learning to fly and getting my PPL was perhaps the most challenging and happy, carefree and liberating time in my life thus far. Powered by my parents, of course and my father in particular, who himself had harboured a dream to become a pilot, but couldn’t.

(More flying anecdotes comin’ up soon.)

2 thoughts on “Self-Discovery – Part 1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.