Civil Aviation Minister, Jyotiraditya Scindia in his inaugural address of Wings India 2024 on Wednesday had said, “We have been issuing record number of commercial pilot licenses (CPLs) in the country over the last two years with the figure crossing 1,622 CPLs in 2023. Among the CPLs issued in 2023, more than 18 per cent were issues to women. “

The number of women pilots in India is said to be best among the world, with about 15 per cent pilots in India being women.

At a session on ‘Women in aviation’ during the Wings India 2024, Philip Cummings, Deputy Minister Counsellor (Economic Affairs), the Embassy of United States of America said, in India, percentage of women commercial pilots are higher than in the US.

But this is not enough, say women in the sector.  They were unanimous in saying it is still very dismal if one sees the demand for pilots which India has. And compared with the number of women flying helicopter, it is barely 2-3 per cent.

Kiran Jain, COO, Noida International Airport one of the panelist at the session said, “Don’t feel comfortable about numbers … it is still dismal. We all carry burdens of generations…”

Similar sentiments was raised by Ashima Mendiratta, Manager Ops (Coord), NR, Pawan Hans Ltd, who said, “Helicopter industry in India is dominated by ex-defence pilots. Only 2-3 per cent are women.”

As Anju Madeka, CEO, Durgapur Airport, pointed out, “When we talk about aviation, we talk about mostly pilots etc… but having run a airport, I would say it is like to handle something totally different. The job profile has its own challenges,” she said.

The sector itself should be looking at more women and there should be some specific courses giving exposure to this sector, most felt.  Therefore, just talking won’t help, Guylaine Audet - Regional Leader Commercial Aviation and Flight Training – APAC, CAE said.

Inherit strengths of women which can be leveraged in aviation sector and for this equipping women with professional skills is important, was the opinion of all present.

A call was made for rolling out mentorship and sponsorship programmes.

Moving the needle is important, was the calling. As Ashmita Sethi, President & Country Head, Pratt & Whitney puts it. “We make progress but in the leadership role, it is still missing. Don’t be afraid of competing.”

Capt. Zoya Agarwal, Senior Commander Air India, UN spokesperson and Founder of UdaanPari:  “We need to develop an attitude…you cannot be what you cannot see, so do not shy away from your feminine side.”