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Taking off without leaving the ground
As far back as Rodney Ragbir could remember, he wanted to fly airplanes.
During his first visit to a library as a child, when he was encouraged to choose a book, he chose one about pilots.
It started a fascination that fuelled his dreams.
Whenever Ragbir would go to pick up family at the airport, he developed a sort of hero worship for the pilots walking commandingly in uniforms, charged with the responsibility of flying passengers safely around the world.
He accomplished that dream, and now plays a role in helping others achieve the dream locally.
Ragbir left T&T when he was three years old, after his parents took the decision to migrate to Canada.
Despite leaving at a young age, he never felt quite at home.
“I remember I had two dreams. One was to be a pilot and the other was to move home to Trinidad to live.
“I never felt that Canada was my home. It was a source of confusion for my parents who had no intention of moving back. I always felt Trinidad was my home,” Ragbir said.
He achieved his first dream after working multiple jobs to put himself through school to train as a pilot.
In 2008, he was offered a position as a pilot at Caribbean Airlines and very happily chose to move back home.
At the time, he had purchased an aviation simulator for a business he had started in Canada, and rather than abandoning his business venture, decided to start a flight training programme in T&T.
Today, as the managing director of Professional Airline Training Solutions Limited (PRO ATS), Ragbir’s company offers flight simulation training to commercial pilots and those who aspire to fly the skies.
“It was initially designed for people who were already pilots, to teach them advanced manoeuvres and to ensure they got continuous training. The first simulator we had was a Boeing 737 jet simulator.”
As time passed, the company got repeated requests for training from people who wanted to be pilots.
“I said to myself, my dreams had come true. It was time to help others make their dreams come true.”
“It was difficult, but seeing people realise their dreams, when you see the smiles on their faces and how excited they are to use the simulator, I feel happy. I remember a wise man once said to me that life is God’s gift to you but what you do in life is your gift to God.”
He purchased two more aeroplane simulators and a helicopter simulator, sinking much of his own money into the venture.
He purchased a Cessna or multi-engine simulator and a generic simulator.
The simulator allows the pilots and aspiring pilots to take off and land at different airports around the world in varying circumstances.
It allows the user to experience flying first hand, and interact with all of the buttons, software and hardware present in the cockpit of an aircraft.
“When an individual acquires a commercial pilot license, it is a license to learn. We then have the advanced programme that allows them to sit in that co-pilot seat.”
While 30 per cent of the clients who use the facility are licensed pilots who do the advanced programme, 70 per cent are aspiring pilots who sign up for the private pilot preparation programme, which is open to anyone over the age of 14.
The company also offers a training camp, where children as young as seven can learn about aviation and experience flying through the simulator.
The company is also launching a one-hour programme for people who fit in neither category and just want to experience the thrill of flying an aircraft.
“We had a lot of requests from the general public who did not want to be pilots but wanted to feel what it was like to fly an aircraft. We avoided it for a while because what we were doing was very professional training, but the demand was high and there was no one else to meet it.”
“We are the only company in the country with this kind of technology and I have not encountered another country in the Caribbean region that does this either.”
For Ragbir, teaching and sharing his knowledge at home, in the country that he loves brings him joy.
He still flies with Caribbean Airlines and despite taking off and landing in airports all over the world, his favourite place to land is T&T.
“Every time I pass over the northern range I experience this joy and amazement at how beautiful the country is, how beautiful the islands are, but also an immense pride over how unique we are and how diverse.
“When you’ve lived abroad its is very different. Whenever I walk off a Caribbean Airlines plane, I’m so proud to say this is my people.”
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