As the date of the Singapore Airshow draws near, Captain Devdutt Sasidharan of the RSAF's Black Knights is striving to maintain his cool as the pre-show excitement builds up.
"I try to treat every flight as a training flight, to not have the pressure of performing in front of an audience. When I step into the cockpit, I try to be calm and focus on the task at hand," said Captain Sasidharan, who at 28 is the youngest of the six Black Knight pilots performing this year. He is flying the role of right wingman on the squad.
Flying with more experienced pilots has also pushed him to up his game, he said.
"Being the youngest, I don't have that many flying hours compared to them, so I have to match up to their standards."
Not only does Captain Sasidharan mentally psyche himself prior to take off, the perfectionist at heart also reviews his performance post-flight over and over in his mind, even at home after work.
"I like to visualise what I need to do to fix my errors… and it helps the team too, because we sit together to visualise the sequence of our display, it helps us to be sure of what we are doing, like (building our) muscle memory," he said.
Flying in an aerobatics team has also given Captain Sasidharan a confidence boost in handling the F-16 jet as an operational pilot and a flight instructor in the 145 Squadron at Changi Air Base.
"I've done things I've never done during operational flying… really pushing the aircraft to its limits. It's expanded my confidence of what I can do," he said.
To maintain his body in tip-top condition, he also hits the gym at least thrice a week. Not out of vanity, but to ensure that he can withstand the gravitational forces during flight, which can be as much as nine times his weight.
He also gets another workout from attending dance classes - the rugged-looking pilot does salsa, Latin and even Brazilian dance.
"It actually takes up most of my time outside work," he said.