The sky’s not the limit for these pilots

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on January 13, 2018 Published on March 07, 2017

Air India salutes its employees

Every year on March 8, Air India pays tribute to its women employees, who form 11 per cent of the workforce, and also to the rich legacy and tradition which started in 1932, the year that Tata Airlines started an air service and Urmila K Parikh became the first Indian woman to get a pilot’s licence.

This year, 32 years after Captain Saudamini Deshmukh commanded the first all-women crew flight on an Indian Airlines Fokker friendship F-27 on the Calcutta-Silchar route, Air India continued the tradition by operating several flights with women crew between February 26 and March 8 including Delhi-Patna, Delhi-Hyderabad and Delhi-Kathmandu on February 26 and the Delhi-London and Delhi-John F Kennedy flight to New York on the international women’s day.

Last year, Air India’s all-women crew gained global recognition for operating the longest commercial flight between Delhi and San Francisco. This year the all-women crew bettered its own record by doing an around the world flight.

Incidentally at least three members of the crew — Captain Kshamta Bajpai, First Officer Indira Singh, Flight Safety Executive Director Harpreet A D Singh — which had operated the world record breaking flight in 2016 were also a part of the crew that operated the around the world flight.

In an indication of how things are changing, Captain Bajpai, who flies the Boeing 777, said that operating a flight for her as a woman was nothing exceptional.

Adds Captain Urmila Yadav, a Commander with Alliance Air with 7,500 to 8,000 hours of flying experience, “When we sit in the cockpit the machine does not know if it is being flown by a man or a woman.”

The machine may not know the difference but people still have some stereotypical views. Captain Kshamta Bajpai, says that there are odd comments and stares that come her way. “I was waiting outside my hotel in San Francisco when a woman stopped and said ‘are you a pilot?’ with some disbelief. It is like women driving cars being stared at. These things happen,” she laughs.

Published on March 07, 2017
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor