Soaring to New Heights

By Kelly Rock

When he’s not working as a Systems Analyst Specialist in Dominion Energy’s OJRP Richmond office, Raviteja Sagiraju enjoys his favorite hobby of flying planes thousands of feet in the air.

“When I’m flying, I feel like an astronaut looking down from space. It is like there are no boundaries, and distances become smaller” explains Ravi.

Ravi got his love for aviation after taking his first flight from Madras, India to Chicago on a consulting assignment in 1992. “I was so excited and pretty much glued to the window whenever I could see outside” he says.

“Flying in a small plane is different from flying in the big jet liners. In a small plane, you feel every movement and the smallest turbulence. Also, when you are in the 3D environment of the sky, the sensation in the inner ear doesn’t always align with what you see outside, causing nausea” says Ravi.

Once he became a US Citizen, Ravi eventually signed up for an accelerated two-week flight school in Florida to obtain his private pilot license.

“After you do your first solo flight, the instructor cuts the back off your shirt. This is representative of when tandem two seater planes were used, your instructor sits behind you, and tugs on the back of your shirt to let you know when he has something to say. Cutting the back off your shirt signifies that you no longer need someone to instruct you as you fly" says Ravi.

After receiving his license, Ravi joined a flying club in Chesterfield, VA.
Soon after, he flew with his two children from Virginia to New Jersey, and got a chance to fly through the Hudson corridor on the way back. Although the Hudson corridor has special rules to learn before flying in that area, Ravi took on the challenge.

“I was flying at the same height as sky scrapers when I was passing through New York City,” Ravi exclaims.

Ravi’s hobby has also introduced him to different events. He has attended AirVenture twice; a huge air show in Oshkosh, WI, and made a pilgrimage to the Wright Brothers’ Memorial by flying to the first flight airport in Kitty Hawk, NC.
“AirVenture is a mecca for aviation, and includes some of the most talented pilots in the world,” says Ravi.

Ravi also had the opportunity to act as a safety pilot for David Christian, Dominion Energy’s former Chief Innovation Officer.

“Flying is easy, but it takes a lot of work to navigate, communicate, and monitor the instruments and traffic. I have to be able to use landmarks on the ground, and track time to navigate while flying in case navigation instruments fail,” he says.

Ravi is also an Aviation merit badge counselor, and uses his passion for aviation to help teach and assist boy scouts.

“Aviation is a great way to teach STEM,” says Ravi.

Ravi and his coworker, Hoge McClaugherty, who is also an Aviation merit badge counselor, recently conducted an aviation merit badge workshop at the Chesterfield airport for ten boy scouts.

He also volunteers to take Young Eagles flying with him. The Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program has flown approximately 2 million kids since the start of its program.

“The smile you see on the kids’ faces on these flight rides is priceless” Ravi exclaims.
“Sharing the experience of flying with others is a lot of fun. I enjoy taking friends, family, and coworkers up with me. It makes the whole ride more enjoyable” says Ravi.

He hopes to continue to pass on his enthusiasm for aviation to younger generations.

Ravi captures a bird’s eye view of downtown Richmond during one of his flights.

View of Downtown Richmond
Young Eagles are ready to embark on a flight with Ravi! 

Young eagles group flying with Ravi

Young Eagles and Ravi are all smiles as they prepare for a flight.

Young eagles group flying with Ravi

Young Eagles are ready to embark on a flight with Ravi!

Young eagles group flying with Ravi


Kelly Rock, Media Relations Intern.