Alumni Speak

‘For pilots, there is no Diwali or New Year’

Apeejay Saket alumnus and IndiGo pilot Sushank Gupta says that his profession is not just about “glamour and money”

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Sushank Gupta, pilot, IndiGo, says he is not certain he would be able to celebrate New Year’s Day with his family this time. While he has to cope with hectic schedules, flying, however, is a job that he loves and is passionate about. In an interview, the alumnus of Apeejay School, Saket, gives us a glimpse of the life of a pilot and the challenges involved. Edited excerpts:

Tell us about your time at Apeejay School, Saket. How did the school prepare you for the future?

I joined Apeejay School, Saket, in 1990 in the nursery class. At that time, the school community was relatively smaller, so all of us knew each other, including seniors and juniors. Even the faculty was excellent; they used to be personally involved in every student’s progress. Even now, I meet some of the teachers who stay close by. I recall our school motto ‘Soaring high is my nature’ and as a pilot, I have soared pretty high (laughs). While I was preparing for IIT in my senior years (which I did not pursue later), I remember how my class teacher took a personal interest and kept my parents updated about my performance.

Was it hard to convince your family that you wanted to become a pilot?

I always wanted to be a pilot. I am the third generation in my family associated with aviation. My father and grandfather were engineers with Indian Airlines. I am the first one, however, to be flying. It did not take too much convincing although initially, my family thought I could pursue something else. Once I told them about my passion, they fully supported me.

Tell us about your training period.

I did my training at the government flying school at Fursatganj, Uttar Pradesh, for almost two years. We led strictly disciplined lives. We had to wake up at 6 am every day, followed by PT. Then we had fixed timings for meals beyond which they would not be available. Most of our instructors were defence personnel. We had to address seniors and speak to them a certain way.

At Indigo, the schedule was quite different. Airline schedules are relatively more challenging—sometimes, it is early morning and at other times, it is late night. It is tough, so you take time to get used to that.

Considering the hectic hours, how do you maintain a work-life balance and spend time with your family?

You have to plan and communicate with your family, who also need to be supportive. Of course, you will not be able to attend all the family functions. For pilots, there is no Diwali or New Year. Even now, I am not sure if I will be flying on New Year’s Day or be able to spend time at home. The good thing is that I can apply for leaves in advance, which is approved in most cases. However, on that rare occasion where you are not able to get a leave, you need to be able to convey it to your family freely.

Does the schedule also take a toll on your health?

To an extent, it does. When you are flying the entire night and finally land at 5 or 6 am in the morning, your sleep cycle is disturbed. So, that is something you have to manage. Some compensate by sleeping in the afternoon while others sleep in the morning, depending on one’s available time and sleep habits, although it does alter your body clock. We also try to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly to keep ourselves fit.

For aspiring pilots, what would your message be?

I would say become a pilot only if you are really passionate about it and not because of the glamour associated with the profession. If you are only thinking about glamour and money, then it is advised to opt for something else because the reality is quite different. There is a lot of studying and effort involved. If you are passionate, you will like the job. Every sunrise and sunset are a real beauty to watch!

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Senior Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.

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