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‘India is making it big in aviation’

Faguni Saxena, Subject Matter Expert at Tech Mahindra, emphasises how the country has the highest percentage of female pilots globally

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Flying hundreds of passengers in an aircraft regularly is no cakewalk. The job comes with rigorous training paired with a huge sense of responsibility. For pilots, there is no room for error. They have to make quick decisions to decipher what course the plane journey would take. Pilots undertake medical tests and fitness exams every year, despite age or experience. Their personal lives aren’t rosy either. They can be called to fly even at night, and this takes a toll on their sleep cycles as well. So, how do they do it? The answer lies in having a strong bent of mind. Faguni Saxena (23), commercial pilot and co-founder of Indian Aviator, an online consultation platform for budding pilots, shares more about the profession. Read on, edited excerpts from the interview:

Please tell us more about your educational journey.

After completing schooling from Apeejay, Pitampura in 2016, I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in B.Sc. Physical Science from Hansraj College, University of Delhi. After that, I decided to train for becoming a commercial pilot in a Florida-based institute in June 2019.

Unfortunately, by the time I finished my course in March 2020, the world was hit by Covid-19. Due to that, opportunities in the aviation industry seemed bleak. And so, I stayed in the States for about a month and a half. Post that, I returned to India and obtained an Indian licence to fly as a commercial pilot.

Then, I opted for a distance course in aviation management at UPES, Dehradun. My qualification completed this year. Presently, I am working as a Subject Matter Expert at Tech Mahindra where my role is to create learning content for aerospace accounts.

How and why did you start indianaviator.in to help budding pilots?

I met Dipeet Mehta, a commercial pilot based in the United Kingdom, in an online programme held by Resilient Pilot, a not-for-profit initiative. Several virtual meetings later, we both decided to create our own web portal. And now, he is the other co-founder of the website.

We both felt that in India, the know-how about the profession and how to get in it, is lacking. Therefore, we came up with the idea of http://www.indianaviator.in to help and mentor aspirants. All the information available on our site is free of charge. Only when a user decides to take a service, we charge them.

The website targets to help young learners. In what way?

We primarily cater to school students who aspire to become a pilot. Even those who have completed their graduation and then have found their calling in aviation are welcome. Further, our website is helpful for anyone between 10 months to 3 years of their pilot training course. We have international tie-ups and collaborations to help aspirants.

At present, we are also exploring opportunities in Canada and South Africa for our students. Till now, we have advised close to 600 aspirants. By the day, we are picking up pace with our regular enquiries growing in number.

What is the difference between pursuing a pilot training programme in India and abroad?

The standards, infrastructure, curriculum of these programmes is still developing in India. In the coming 5-7 years, we will witness a drastic shift as new schools are coming up. As of now, the United States and New Zealand have more aircrafts and airports with better quality and infrastructure to offer. And so, they are able to provide the gold standard to the world.

Several youngsters wish to become pilots but they may not be able to maintain their fitness. What can they do?

My advice is to consult a doctor and ensure that you are medically fit to fly. If s/he suggests that the health issue is correctable, then you must follow the diets and exercise routine closely. Those who want to maintain their fitness, squeeze in at least an hour of regular exercise to stay in shape. Whatever diet you may follow, stay away from excessive consumption of oily or junk foods. Also, try to balance your body and mind. Don’t shy away from sharing your thoughts with friends and family.

How lucrative can a career as a pilot be?

Salaries across the world are largely dependent on age, experience, aircrafts’ type and flight hours. In India, the starting salary for first-officers should be about INR 1 lakh per month. In countries like the United States, pilots mostly start at 40-50 dollars an hour. And then, they progress financially by building their flight hours.

What are the most exciting developments in the aviation industry?

The government of India is doing great work to improve the quality of the industry. Construction of so many new airports across the country are underway. Shri Jyotiraditya M. Scindia, Minister of Civil Aviation, has a huge part to play in this. I recently attended a conference in Hyderabad called, ‘Wings India’ where he spoke passionately about how India is going to make it big in this sector.

The privatisation of Air India by the Tata Group is also the next big thing. It was recently reported that Tata’s are in close talks with Airbus for an order of the A350 long-range jets that have the capacity of flying as far as the US West Coast from New Delhi.

The industry has bounced back beautifully post Covid-19. Interestingly, most people have been engaging in ‘revenge travel’ since the time other countries have opened up their borders.

As a female pilot, did you face any challenges?

No. I have always felt much supported by my family, mentors, instructors and friends. A lesser known fact is that India at 12.4% is the only country in the world with the maximum percentage of female pilots.

Your fond memories of Apeejay School, Pitampura?

My school teachers have been extremely supportive. I would like to mention Pankaj sir, Anuradha ma’am, Savita ma’am who always believed in me. They instilled in me the confidence to do well in life and gave me the fuel to fly.

Your final message for students?

Don’t think about the hurdles that may come in your journey of becoming a pilot. In the end, your hard work and dedication will be worth it. My suggestion is to never stop learning. 

For queries, please contact: [email protected]

Mrini Devnani is a Senior Correspondent and Marketing Coordinator at Newsroom. She covers student achievements, interviews and contributions for the website. She was a former Correspondent covering Edutech for the India Today Group, and has passion for Social Media and Digital Marketing. You can reach her at [email protected]

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