June 1, 2013
Rohan Bhatia’s parents wanted him to become a lawyer or doctor, but certainly not a pilot. They thought it was just too dangerous.
But Bhatia has flown high ever since he caught the aviation bug after receiving a model airplane. He started flight training at 14, soloed at 16 and earned his private pilot’s certificate at 17. At 18, the flying club he had started morphed into his own flight school, Centennial Aviation Academy, which is geared toward middle and high school students.
Since then Bhatia has been busy earning certifications and college degrees. He has a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and now at 23, is working on his master’s degree in leadership.
Bhatia said he wanted to create a flight school targeted at young people because he wanted youth to have an easier time becoming a pilot than he himself had.
“My parents were there financially, but no one said this dream was doable,” Bhatia said. “Now I feel a need to help others and tell them they can do it.”
Approximately 98 percent of his students are middle or high school students. All students get their own flight uniform when they start. “I treat them as if they are already certified pilots…and I force the decision making down. Even though they may be only 12 or 13, they are the ones who are making decisions on whether it is safe to fly because of weather or winds,” he said. “That way, they will know how to make those tough decisions when they are older.”
While none of his 47 students have gone on to earn their wings yet—they are all too young—many have already soloed, he said.
Based out of the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Atlanta, Ga., the aviation academy offers hands-on classes that keep students’ attention, Bhatia said.
“We fly kids into everything from the ‘mom and pop’ grass airport up to and including the busiest airport in the world at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport,” he said. “This provides a wonderful insight for the kids as they get to see all facets of aviation.”
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.