Aye Aye, Captain

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Bavicca Bharathi, the world’s youngest commander at age 21, talks to Aparna Sundaresan about achieving this feat and reveals her passion for flying

 

 

 

 

Bavicca Bharathi first made news in 2007 when she became the youngest commercial pilot license (CPL) holder at age 18. This was a double milestone for her, as her mother, who had begun pilot training with her, also received her CPL. Bavicca and her mother, both from Mumbai, trained at Yash Air in Shirpur village in rural Maharashtra. Bavicca is currently employed by IndiGo airlines.

What inspired you to become a pilot? We hear you originally wanted to be a doctor.
Yes, it was my childhood dream to become a cardiac surgeon, and my uncle, who is a doctor, was my role model. It was in 2005, when I was in standard twelfth and preparing for my medical entrance exams, that I had a chance meeting with Mrs Prima Ramesh, and it changed the course of my life. Her husband was a pilot, and she influenced me to become one. She even made me take a look, with her husband’s coat and cap on, and I was inspired.

How did you get your mother on board to train alongside you?
The initial plan was to go to Canada for a year of flying training, and my mother was to accompany me. Being a very active woman who helped my dad in his business and take up my studies, it was her plan to join an MBA course once I took up medicine. So, to spend the time usefully, she decided to join the flying course. However, she got so interested that she not only got her license, but also took it up as a profession.
It was nice to have my mom along. I never felt homesick, and most of the changes never got me. I stayed comfortable throughout the training thanks to my mom.

How stark was life in Shirpur in comparison with life in Mumbai?
Staying at the hanger was a very different experience. We arrived there with high expectations of a hostel, only to find a room with almost no facilities and shared bathroom toilets. Staying eight kilometres from the town, we had no newspapers or entertainment. Transport to the town was only by rickshaws that ferried up to twelve people at a time. As the lights went out, insects would come in. Having been in Mumbai all my life, adjusting to village food and the simple ways of life there was not easy. That said, people there were kind and generous, and we made some local friends too. What I miss now is cycling on the runway, speaking to the simple village folk and nomads, and talking to school kids about airplanes.

What was the most challenging aspect of your training?
I would say the long waits before each sortie (flight mission). We would get ready and wait from sunrise, and most days until sunset, till we got a chance at the flight controls.

Do you remember your first flight? What was it like?
Yes, it was an air experience flight on a Cessna 152 with my first instructor, Captain Bimal Kumar. He helped me try some manoeuvres in air and I followed him on the controls for most of the flight. It was interesting to see the aircraft respond.

Take us through your experience of obtaining the CPL and the Air Transport Pilot license (ATPL).
Right after my twelfth standard board exams, I started flying at Yash Air Ltd. Within nine months, I passed the DGCA papers, cleared my Class I medicals, and did most of my flying, but was underage to get a CPL. So, I got my PPL (private pilot license) and did some multi-engine flying in the meantime. The day after my eighteenth birthday, we submitted the documents and got my CPL twenty days later. I was fortunate enough to get a job just months after my CPL and continue my flying. Once I’d cleared my ATPL theory papers, I concentrated on finishing my flying requirements and my employer was helpful in expediting my flying and helping me get my ATPL in time for the record.

We hear your dream is to captain a flight with your mother as the copilot…
Unfortunately, turbulent times in aviation have not allowed us to be part of the same company to achieve it. But I’m sure we will be able to do it in the future.

What advice would you give to young, aspiring pilots?
Do what you are really passionate about. Work hard no matter how people try to discourage you, and then you’ll succeed.

IN THE COCKPIT WITH BAVICCA

The aircraft you’d like to fly
A space shuttle

Your favourite flying route
I don’t have a favourite route, but I do like flights through dawn or dusk

Your dream passenger (if you flew a private aircraft)
I’d like to have my dad in the cockpit, as he is most interested and intrigued by everything in aviation

If not your mother, who else would you like as a co-pilot?
Any like-minded person

When you are not in the cockpit, you are…
singing, painting, playing the keyboard, or even studying for my MBA

 

Volume 3 Issue 5

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