In a widely shared video clip of a Chennai to Madurai flight, the IndiGo pilot points out landmarks such as the famous Srirangam temple.

Captain Priyavignesh wearing shades inside cabin
Features Social Media Wednesday, July 22, 2020 - 14:10

IndiGo pilot First Officer Captain G Priyavignesh has been receiving praise from many ever since he posted a short clip of his Tamil in-flight announcement. Delivered almost a week ago, Priyavignesh, who was flying passengers from Chennai to Madurai, pointed out landmarks such as the spot where River Cauvery splits into Kollidam and Cauvery near Trichy, the famous Srirangam temple located between the two tributaries, the Alagarkovil reserve forest area in Madurai, which would come into view about five to seven minutes into their flight, and so on.

"Tharpodhu naam kadal mattathirlerundhu 16,000 adi uyarathil parandhu kondirukirom. Tharpodhaya namudiya vaan vazhi pathaianadhu Trichyai nokki, Cauvery aatrankaraiyil azhaga amaindhulla Trichy managara meedhu parandhu..." he says. ("We are now flying 16,000 feet above sea level. From our path through the skies towards Trichy, we can see that we are flying above the picturesque Trichy district, located along the banks of Cauvery…”)

Thirty-year-old Captain Priyavignesh, who hails from Chennai, has been practising his in-flight announcements in Tamil over the past one month. “This time I decided to record it with the help of a friend, so I can receive some feedback. I never thought it would go viral when I posted it,” he tells TNM.

My TAMIL Announcement on MADURAI bound IndiGo Flight. #madurai

Posted by Capt'Priyavignesh G on Saturday, 11 July 2020

“Especially now since pilots don’t get to meet the passengers, it was hard for me to know if it was being received well or not,” adds the pilot.

But the response so far has been very encouraging. “Other Captains too appreciated me. My Field Officer is very encouraging and has asked me to continue it. Social media comments too have a lot of good feedback,” he shares.

And a phone call from an old friend has made Priyavignesh even more happy. “I’d almost forgotten about it until my friend called and reminded me. During our training days, we would imagine being able to deliver the announcement in our mother tongue and practise it, just amongst ourselves. In fact, I’d done it once, many years ago, for friends. ‘Do you remember the first time you made such an announcement? Now you’ve done it for real’, my friend called and said. That was almost 10 years ago and it felt emotional for me to hear from him about it now,” he muses.

The pilot makes the same announcements in English because it is mandatory, which works to the benefit of passengers who do not understand Tamil. Though the government had said in 2018 that in-flight announcements can be made in local languages, not all airlines do it, primarily because of practical difficulties.

What inspired Priyavignesh to try out the idea was, in fact, a precedent set by some of his seniors. “Captains like Ashok with whom I flew the flight were most encouraging. Captain Abhijith, who’s a Maharashtrian, would request me to teach him a few words in Tamil so he can greet passengers. Even during my training days our instructor would encourage us to give it a go,” he says.

Priyavignesh, who has been flying commercial flights around south India for the past two years, shares a little about his family and his passion for flying. “I come from a humble background, my father ran a very small clothing business in Kerala and was working even until a year after I started flying. He doesn’t anymore. I took up flying lessons at the Madras Flying Club while pursuing my BA in History at Loyola College in Chennai. If this dream didn’t work out, I was going to take up MBA,” he says.

The pilot says he was most excited to share the success of his Tamil announcements with his mother. “She was a Tamil teacher and used to always encourage me to participate in Tamil language competitions from my school days. Her father would write poems in Tamil and she too does from time to time. So I kept this as a surprise and showed her the video only recently, she was very happy,” he tells us.

More interestingly, Priyavignesh’s idea to share something more about the landmarks as seen from the skies was sown by another pilot. “Captain Sanjeev Kumar is an ex Air Force helicopter pilot who would often tell me the importance of being able to recognise topographies. We actually fly low-level aircrafts at an altitude of about 12,000 to 15,000 feet so what’s on ground is very clear to spot. Captain Sanjeev would encourage me to spot topographies and not depend only on the navigation system,” he explains.

“Also, I’ve heard from relatives and friends that after the first excitement of being able to see the clouds and cities and towns from up in the skies, flying gets quite boring later on as passengers. I wanted to make it a little more entertaining for them,” he adds.

Priyavignesh dons an interesting alter ego on Instagram. On his ‘Witty Vimaani’ profile, the pilot shares hilarious memes on aviation, sometimes pulling his own leg.

Priyavignesh says that being able to fly passengers home at the time of the pandemic has been very satisfying, even if it comes with health risks. “Being a pilot, one has to be selfless. Moreover, our company has initiated all kinds of safety measures and we are well-protected,” he says.

“Especially now since passengers might already be stressed because of the fear of catching the infection, I thought in-flight announcements in Tamil might take their mind off their worries, even if for a short while,” he finishes.

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