LAKE COUNTY, CA – To call Aneesh Mullacheri determined is an understatement. He traveled halfway around the world only to watch his dream of becoming an American commercial pilot became a nightmare. But he hasn’t given up.
A six-month time limit on his visa is ticking while he eats and sleeps less than 100 yards from the small aircraft he will fly in Santa Rosa this weekend for the last leg of his private pilot licensing exam. His flight school American School of Aviation in Atwater, CA folded in July, taking the $40,000 he’d paid upfront and leaving him stranded. Solo Flight School in Lakeport is helping him get back in the air with free private pilot training.
“I know something good is going to happen,” Mullacheri said, a sparkle in his brown eyes.
In the same breath, Mullacheri acknowledged that flying days are over if he has to go back to India when his visa expires in February. He landed in San Francisco on his 18th birthday, ready to start commercial pilot training at the American School of Aviation in Atwater.
Mullacheri had $400 to his name and nowhere to live when the school declared bankruptcy. He called home for help – but not to his family.
“I didn’t want to give my grandfather another heart attack,” Mullacheri said.
Solo Flight School Co-owner Nancy Brier and her family took Mullacheri under their collective wing in October when they learned of his plight. The family’s already thin budget can only bear the cost of his private pilot license training, which is the first step to a commercial pilot license, which in turn is a stepping-stone to becoming a test pilot and ultimately an astronaut.
“My goal would be to at least help him get his commercial license,” Brier said.
She said the money is coming out of her family’s personal account, on top of providing transportation, living quarters and personal support. The family felt compelled, she said, not just by his circumstances, but also by his spirit.
Mullacheri said he felt responsible for his grandfather’s first heart attack during his eight-month struggle to get his visa and scrape together enough money for the flight school. His grandfather had been his only supporter at home, and had loaned him the money he still needed after selling approximately two acres of farming land he had inherited from his mother for approximately $25,000.
On top of selling everything he owned, Mullacheri broke centuries-old social traditions in his homeland of India by daring to follow that dream. His grandparents raised him after his mother died and his father dropped out of his life when he was four years old.
His career choices were down to a literal coin toss between the engineering and medical professions, with his peers and his grandparents tossing the coin. Mullacheri wanted more.
“They never ask what is your interest, what do you want to be? That is what I saw here, they are really optimists (here). But in my place, no. Maybe one in a thousand will be an optimist. All the others say, ‘Never dream big things,’” Mullacheri said.
Flight instructor Vernon Childers has walked Mullacheri through almost a month and a half of private pilot lessons, and said he “could use 20 more just like him” who have his determination and work ethic. Childers said Mullacheri passed the oral part of his exam in 30 minutes, a process that can take hours.
To learn more about Mullacheri’s circumstances or to help, call the Solo Flight School at 263-9920.
Contact Tiffany Revelle at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her directly at 263-5636 ext. 37.