From auto-rickshawala to airline pilot: The inspirational story of Shrikant Pantawane

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People often say that sheer hard work and dedication takes you places. They also say perseverance and passion can make your dreams come true. People tell you many things, but seldom do they tell a story as inspirational and motivating as this one. The story of a certain Shrikant Pantawane – an auto-rickshaw delivery boy turned pilot!

Shrikant auto driver turns pilot

Shrikant Pantawane is now a fully qualified pilot.

Shrikant grew up in Nagpur and was born into a relatively poor family. His father worked as a security guard and there wasn’t much financial income for his family, the lack of which, didn’t allow him to make his son a commercial airline pilot. Shrikant always dreamt of becoming a pilot, but was under the preconceived notion that only those who join the Air Force can fly an aeroplane. Considering his family’s delicate financial condition, he was not only pushed to work at an early age, but also realised that becoming a pilot will not be an easy task. Life’s hard reality dawned upon him, but Shrikant never lost hope and his love of flight.

Airbus A320 IndiGo 1

IndiGo’s fleet consists of Airbus A320 aircraft.

Shrikant was still studying when he started off as a delivery boy. He managed to get a hold of an auto-rickshaw, which he then used to deliver items within Nagpur. The young lad struggled for four years, managing his studies and his time-consuming job. Then came the day when Shrikant visited the airport to drop off a parcel, and incidentally, saw an airline pilot. Curiosity lead the ambitious youth to strike up a conversation with a nearby tea vendor, where he was made aware of a pilot scholarship programme conducted by the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation), India’s aviation regulator. Fortunately, Shrikant met all the requirements of the DGCA to be eligible for their sponsored flight training programme. Shrikant also got another piece of good news, this time, from some cadet pilots. He realised that one could pursue a career in aviation without having to join the Air Force (as opposed to his earlier understanding).

Airbus A320 IndiGo 4

This is Shrikant’s office! Jealous? (Simulated cockpit image of the Airbus A320 for illustration purpose only). 

These slices of juicy information gave Shrikant the push and motivation he needed to pursue his life’s ambition of becoming a pilot. Shrikant hit the books hard and cleared his 12th grade in the field of science, thus fulfilling the basic prerequisite to pursue his career. However, Shrikant hit turbulence throughout his route to becoming a pilot. The first obstacle was finding a suitable flying school and after much recce, he came across a his training grounds in the state of Madhya Pradesh and got to work. Having said that, the young lad wasn’t in for a cake walk. The primary language of the aviation industry is English – a language which evaded Shrikant’s grasp for a while. Thankfully, he was blessed with some very helpful mates, with whose help, Shrikant managed garner enough proficiency to join this challenging industry.

Airbus A320 IndiGo 6

An Airbus A320 in its landing phase of flight. 

Two years of hard work, endless studying and many hours of flight training later, Shrikant Pantawane finally earned his commercial pilot’s licence (CPL). Unfortunately for the ambitious youth, the aviation industry was going through one of its 7 year cycles of highs and lows, and the latter was the case when the fresh CPL-holder tried applying for his first job as a pilot. Shrikant was met with more disappointment and had to sacrifice his urge to fly for a while, and had to spend brief stint as an executive at a corporate office. This wasn’t something the aspiring airline pilot wanted, in fact, this is not something that any aspiring aviator wants. Post this unsatisfying period, Shrikant awaited the final part of his scholarship and underwent the prerequisite Type Rating. Unlike with your car-oriented licence, a standard CPL wouldn’t by default allow you to join an airline.

Airbus A320 IndiGo 5

Shrikant Pantawane proved that hard work pays off.

Shrikant underwent his Type Rating for the Airbus A320 aircraft, which co-incidentally, is the very type of aircraft used by airlines like IndiGo. Shrikant not only cleared all of his CPL and Type Rating examinations well, but months later when he got THE call from IndiGo, he aced all of the airline’s assessments as well! Shrikant Pantawane is now a pilot for IndiGo and flies on the right-hand seat as a first officer (the first position for all beginner pilots). This is how a young and to an extent, underprivileged boy from Nagpur earned his wings and took to the air.

Did this story inspire/motivate in any way? Do let us know about your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.

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