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Childhood trips to the cockpits of different airplanes sparked an early interest in aviation for Gwinden Singh. The 27-year-old‘s father worked for the national India air carrier, Air India, as an aircraft engineer and often took his young son to work to show him the ins and outs of aircraft maintenance processes. “I used to always get excited about seeing what a piece of big machinery they were actually working on,“ remembers Singh. “Then I started thinking maybe this could be something which I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
After careful consideration, Singh decided to become an airline pilot. However, in 2011 when the Indian aviation market was in recession, his father suggested that his son postpone his ambition to be a pilot because it required huge financial investment and, at the time, the country‘s airlines were massively reducing staff numbers.
“At that moment, I was asking myself what should I do in my professional life? Since my friends were pursuing computer engineering, I followed their steps.” Singh smiles as he recalls having taken his father’s advice and opted for a bachelor’s degree in IT engineering instead of aviation.
And so Singh graduated from the local engineering college and spent two years working in a New Delhi-based data and analytics company. But he couldn‘t forget his dream of becoming a pilot. “I realized that the spark started coming back for aviation,” he says.
The bumpy road to a dream job
Deciding that there was no time to lose, Singh quit his job in the IT company and began preparing for his CPL (commercial pilot license). He remembers that the first steps in aviation were challenging as he only had a week to prepare for his ground CPL exams. But his motivation powered him through and he managed to clear the first two subjects out of the required five. “That was an achievement for me,” he says.
“I joined a flying school by the end of February 2019. I did my CPL and all the documentation as well as solo flying by the end of January 2020. I could say I was one of the fastest solo candidates having completed solo-flying within seven hours while, usually, people do this close to 15 to 20 hours.”
But as his goal of becoming a pilot drew ever closer, as soon as Singh graduated from flight school in February 2020, the world was turned on its head.
“Everything has changed since Covid. I thought it would be a small bird flu virus which was not going to be that serious… Pilots started going out of jobs and I started having doubts about my career decision. I was asking myself, have I made a wrong decision in my life? Have I spent too much of my parents’ money under which I’m not able to return? And that was the feeling that was starting to eat me up. I was like, maybe this wasn’t the right decision, maybe I could have done something else with that amount of money. I could have invested in my education in some other way.”
Back to previous skills
The aviation lover realized that he needed to find a job in another industry and so he began looking. “After sitting idle for five months I decided not to waste more time and instead use my education to support my family financially, […] It was not an easy thing for me to get a job as I was on a break for two whole years,” he recalls.
In the end, Singh got a job as a manager in business development at an Indian company. But he still hopes to fulfill his lifetime ambition of becoming a pilot.
“Not a day goes by when I don’t look out for pilot jobs. Even if there is a vacancy for experienced pilots, I still send in my resumé for evaluation. I believe this whole experience has taught me to stay grounded no matter how much success I achieve in life. I still look forward to flying for an airline soon.”