A personal loss inspires a dream of becoming an air ambulance pilot.
In 2007 in India, Komal Rahane’s grandfather died of a heart attack after an ambulance arrived too late to provide paramedic care. Today, about to obtain her commercial helicopter pilot license (CHPL), Rahane has her grandfather in mind as she pursues her dream of becoming a helicopter air ambulance (HAA) pilot.
“Every time I take off” during training flights, Rahane says, “I wish the helicopter could have landed on our farm in India to save my grandpa.”
A Career Change Leads to Aviation
In 2015, Rahane left her homeland and moved to Texas to pursue a computer science degree. Two years later, she found herself working as a software developer. But she realized a desk job wasn’t for her. “That wasn’t making me happy,” Rahane explains. “I was spending 10 hours a day sitting in front of a computer. It wasn’t my personality.”
She recalls that after moving to the United States, she saw an abundance of helicopters in the air and was especially inspired by air ambulance rotorcraft. “I never saw a helicopter closely when I was growing up,” Rahane says. “In India, it’s really rare to have a passion for being a helicopter pilot, because you don’t see helicopters landing and taking off.”
But seeing helicopters flying in Texas made her realize that “flying a helicopter is my thing.”
Rahane began her pilot training in 2019 at Veracity Aviation, a helicopter pilot training school and operator in Pearland, Texas. But before she could feel comfortable in the cockpit, Rahane realized she had to overcome a physical challenge that she had encountered in the Robinson R22, the aircraft in which she started at Veracity.
“Aviation and cockpit controls were new to me,” says Rahane. “The most challenging situation in the cockpit was not [being able to pull] enough power to climb and cross-check on instruments. A Robinson R22 gives a lot of vibration through cyclic control. My forearm and wrist weren’t strong enough for that.”
But Rahane didn’t let those temporary limitations stop her. Following a suggestion from her flight instructor, she started going to the gym and lifting weights. “Before going to flight training, I started doing push-ups to gain more strength. I stayed committed and overcame my challenges.”
Rahane received her private pilot certificate in 2021 and is now continuing her training toward her CHPL. She’d also like to obtain CFI and CFII ratings and hopes to become a flight instructor within a year, on her way to becoming an HAA pilot.
HAI Scholarship Opens Doors
Rahane will be able to obtain her CHPL thanks in part to HAI, from which she received the HAI Commercial Helicopter Pilot Rating Scholarship in 2022 after learning about the association through a Google search. The scholarship included a cash award of $5,000 toward the cost of obtaining the rating.
The funds are helping Rahane overcome a major impediment to her dreams. “Financing helicopter training is the biggest obstacle,” she says, echoing the sentiments of many aviation students. “The HAI scholarship is giving me an opportunity to focus on my flight training and achieve my target.”
Rahane says winning the HAI scholarship means a lot to her and shows there are people in the industry who believe in her and support her dreams. “[Winning the scholarship] boosts my confidence and inspires me to wake up every day and work on my goal [of obtaining a CHPL],” a goal that was just 15 flight hours away as of this writing in May 2023.
Rahane hopes to be an example for other young women thinking of becoming helicopter pilots. “If society starts seeing more women helicopter pilots, more girls will get inspired,” she explains. “This is a mindset shift for parents. ‘If someone else’s daughter can become a helicopter pilot, my daughter can also do it,’ they’ll think. That will be the biggest achievement I could do in my life. I want to be a trailblazer.”