My name is Janani and I hail from Chennai, one of the metropolitan cities in South India. We belong to an upper-middle-class family of four located around thirty-minute drive from the majestic Chennai Kamaraj International Airport. At school I excelled in science and language, naturally, my parents wanted me to become a doctor or a college Lecturer. I have to admit I agreed with them then. Time started ticking favourably and stars aligned itself to my dad's benefits this time. Yes!! My dad finally bagged his dream job with a multi-national company in Malaysia. I could see my family's living standard raised and my dad decided to stay there to compensate for our rising needs. Though I missed my dad and his support from a very young age it also helped me to handle issues all by myself that any other normal kid at my age would require parents’ guidance. It was difficult initially, there were times I felt abandoned and less cared for. Those were the days I would remind myself of less privileged children who don't have any moral, physical and financial support and pushed myself to cheer up and be grateful for a life that many only could dream of.
My passion towards flying all started when I first flew to Malaysia to visit my father, I was 13 then. Sitting as a passenger on a Boeing 777 aircraft on row 20E didn't fascinate me much. At first, I thought what's so great about sitting in a capsule with too much air-conditioning on?, But when we were cleared for take-off and the aircraft left the ground effect I felt a rush of adrenalin release…. there I said to myself Imagine sitting in the cockpit and performing a take-off, Yes! By then I knew this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life. Like a normal aspirant, I googled the opportunities, captain's testimonies working as an airline pilot, also made pilot friends in Orkut and begun my in-depth research on pros and cons. The outcome of the research was that I can't afford to become a commercial pilot and decided to join the Indian Air Force. When I told my parents that this is what I wanted to be they convinced me to first finish my high school. I have to tell you I though selecting science as a major in high school was a brilliant choice. Little did I know that I would struggle really hard to clear chemistry and that this subject would be my most hated subjects ever (I hate chemistry). This time my parents found another reason to postpone my training, once again they advised me to finish my undergraduate studies. I finished my under graduation in bachelor in computer application, grabbed two offers through college campus interview with pioneering software firms and also managed to turn them down since I wanted to pursue my passion.
After proving my parents that I am good enough to at least get selected in Campus selection they finally granted permission to go ahead and do the needful to start flying lessons. Now the question is what is the first step? Lokesh Venkat, my family friend, who was also aspiring to become a Pilot, had already finished DGCA ground exams by then and was waiting to start his flying lessons. They say that God sends you the right people at the right time to help you through the life process I strongly believe Lokesh was one of them. He guided me step by step to finish my medical tests and to choose a school from the US so that we could finish our flying fast as opposed to flying in India. I considered him as my elder brother and used to call him so as well.
We left for the US together with lots of enthusiasm, curiosity, strong will and of course abundant blessings and good wishes from our parents on July 17th, 2016. We had picked Atlanta as our learning destination. Though I initially struggled to catch up with ground classes and flying with the help of instructors and friends I slowly caught up to the pace. I got my Solo on Cessna 172, best moment of my life. I enjoyed flying all alone without being constantly prompted by an instructor.
Meanwhile, my brother was excelling in both and he had already started his multi-engine training on a Beech Duchess while I was finishing my solo hours. On March 21st, 2008, Lokesh had returned from his second elder sister's wedding and was all set to resume his multi-engine training with his favourite instructor Ken Yi. Capt. Ken Yi was originally from Korea and had resumed his career in aviation as a flight instructor after a gap. Within a short span, we literally saw him work very hard and scale up to heights. Every student wanted to fly with him. Capt. Ken was filled with so much positivity and energy that no one could ever fail to notice him pass by. Like every day routine, I got my flight bag from dispatch after submitting my flight plan for my Solo flight and Lokesh got his to resume his Multi-engine training.
Little did I know that those are going to be the final few minutes of conversation that I was ever going to have with my brother. A day before when he returned from India he had asked me to make chicken curry and rice for him. Before that let me please talk about my cooking skills. Pathetic is the word. I literally had no clue about cooking those days. I could barely boil water. I was shocked when he asked me whether I could make those dishes for me. I don't know how and why I agreed and immediately left for Kroger to purchase rice and chicken and took my friends to help and prepared those dishes with great difficulty (at least for me). My brother was commenting on my cooking skills and advised me to reduce spices. He also said that he enjoyed those dishes and even shared with his roommate since I made too much. We left for the ramp to resume our assigned flights.
Lokesh took off from Peachtree DeKalb, Chamblee, GA where we had been doing our training to Richard B. Russell Airport at Rome, GA. They were practicing engine out procedures on BE-76. I left for my Solo flight to Lawrenceville, GA. While we were having lunch with friends at the restaurant one of my friend received a phone call from school urging us to return back to base as soon as possible. We had a very bad feeling about this, nevertheless, we returned back to base only to find out that 184AA crashed and that they had discovered two deceased bodies.
My world crumbled. I thought, how a 24-year-old, dynamic individual can just like that vanish in thin air? "This can't be true," I told myself and above all, this can't happen to me. I have not lost any loved or dear ones so far in my life. I am God's chosen one; I usually get what I want. Lovely parents, great family, and friends a life that one could only wish for was what I was living, in an absolute bliss until that very moment. According to the reports as the plane took off, it appeared to be struggling and caught the eye of Mike Mathews, the airport's manager, who was driving around the airport and he estimates around 500 or 1000 feet, the aircraft banked to the left and plunged nose-down at the southern end of the airport and burst into flames upon impact. Reality struck very hard that it crushed my hopes and I was packing my bags to India to quit aviation and head back to computers. My Instructors and friends advised me to continue after a break. With lots of love and support, I finished my training finally by October 2018.
I thought all my bad days are over and now on everything is going to be fantastic. My journey towards becoming an airline pilot is going to be smooth after clearing my ground papers in India. With great hopes and positive attitude, I left the USA after a year and a half. I must say that clearing DGCA ground papers was not an easy task. After six months of pouring my heart and soul to understand the subjects, I finally cleared my ground papers only to realize that no one was hiring due recession.
I then started looking for other jobs with my computer science degree and landed a job in a BPO as a background verification executive. My manager liked my quality of work and shifted me to the HR department. Thereafter I slowly gained experience and excelled in HR recruitment .that experience got me into multi-national companies and I started working for US and European process from India. The only difficulty was that to compensate for the US timing we had to work graveyard shifts in India so that we will be able to help recruit candidates for the American companies. Those were the days that I notices a significant difference between two different workgroups in my section .one group of recruiters clearly worked only to achieve the target that was set for the individual and to make the boss happy and other group worked for the candidates and went to great extent even to risk their jobs by disagreeing with management but had a lot of closures and commendable rapport with the clients. I found out the late ones had a masters in social work specializing in human resource. That's when I decided to pursue that course. I finished my masters in Social work from a reputable college through merit and was campus selected for a start-up firm. After working for six months I quit the company since I could see them hitting rock bottom.
"Now what?" I asked myself. Meanwhile, I was working with my ex-colleague who had started a new consultancy as a freelance recruiter. After two months I received a phone call from my good friend who was now working as a first officer with one of the renowned private airlines in India. She urged me to brush up my aviation subjects for the upcoming boom in India. Immediately I winded all my work and started to Delhi to join ground classes with a private instructor. I don't know what drove me to do this. Relentlessly I worked day and night to brush up all the skills that have been left untouched for 9 long years. I finally cleared all four rounds with Air India Express. The day I received the news from my friend couldn't help but I thanked God and was very grateful for his abundant blessing.
I chose HATS aviation academy, Greece to finish my Type Rating on B737. I was trained by Capt. Koray Yilmaz and few other instructors'. Wholeheartedly I am very grateful and fortunate for having Capt. Koray's continuous support and guidance in this journey. I joined Express and currently going through the training process.
For all those aspirants out there who are trying to soar through the skies, Aviation does not promise a bed of roses. For those who are willing to work passionately with responsibility, the sky isn't the limit, it's just the beginning. Patience and perseverance are the keys to success. My Life journey is an example for that and I worked very hard to save money and kept my passion alive during those tough ten years of wait. Welcome aboard. I wish everyone God speed, cheers, and happy landings.