Page 22 - FIS World
P. 22

High Flying Dreams
FIS Alumna is United Airlines Pilot
As a First O cer for United, Radha  ies her Boeing 767/757 (above) from Newark to Europe every week. (Below) Radha with aspiring aviators.
Radha Abiraman, FIS Class of 1994, had a childhood dream of becoming a pilot. It all started
with her very  rst  ight from New Delhi to New York City in 1980. Radha, was just four years old when her family moved to the U.S., but the  ight made a huge impression on her. On the Boeing 747 she asked her parents and the  ight attendants a seemingly endless number of questions about the airplane and how  ying was possible.
In 1990, her father was posted to the Indian Consulate in Frankfurt and Radha attended FIS. Her family lived in an apartment building with rooftop access and every day after school, Radha would go up and watch the planes.
One day her father brought home a magazine for Radha – the cover article was about the youngest female pilot (and commander) for Indian Airlines, Nivedita Bhasin. At that moment, Radha knew exactly what she wanted to do. Radha cut the picture out and put it on her wall where it remained the next four years.
During her senior year at FIS, Radha researched  ight schools. She wrote to one in London, but discovered that the program was too expensive. After graduating from FIS, Radha and her family moved back to Mumbai. Her parents insisted she go to college; they believed she needed a good education and could attend  ight school later. Further, there were few
20 FIS World February 2017
 ight schools in India and Radha would have been the only female. Radha started college to get a bachelor’s degree, but found she was not happy and not interested in her program in commerce.
Her mother encouraged her and told her: “If you have a dream, you should stay focused, work hard, and never give up.”
Radha still remembers her dad’s birthday in 1995, when an article in the newspaper announced a local presentation for those interested in attending  ight school in the U.S. She and her father went, and shortly thereafter she convinced her parents to allow her to attend. Radha  nished her  rst year of college in India and at 18 moved to Illinois by herself to attend  ight school.
Radha  nished  ight school in a record time of four months and began the long process of logging enough  ight hours to become a commercial pilot, taking di erent jobs towing banners, and  ying night freight. She became an airline pilot in 2002, and  ew for Comair Airlines until 2012; in 2008 she was promoted to captain. During this time she also completed her Bachelors in Business Administration, graduating from college in 2012.
In 2014 her dream came true and her persistence paid o . She was hired by United Airlines as a First O cer. It had been her lifetime goal to make this happen.
Radha believes in paying it forward by mentoring young children and aspiring aviators. In September, while in India, Radha visited a school for underprivileged children and told them how her seemingly impossible dream had come true. She brought them each a pin with wings on it and told them “if they ever feel discour- aged, they should look at the pin and remember they have wings, to keep trying, to never give up, and to follow their dreams”. Several months later, one of the teachers told her the children were still coming to school with the wings pinned on their shirt.
Nancy Huston
Development and Alumni Relations Manager
This past December, Radha had the chance to thank her role model, Nivedita Bhasin, in person for inspiring her to ful ll her dreams.

   20   21   22   23   24