BENGALURU – An all-female Indian pilot team made history this week, after they completed the longest non-stop commercial flight ever operated by the Indian national airline, Air India. The team of four cockpit crew members from Air India completed the 17-hour-long flight on Monday according a statement released by the airline.
“We are India’s daughters who were given the opportunity to make this historic flight,” the commander of the flight, Captain Zoya Aggarwal, who flew the first leg of the flight, said. “We were able to create a new chapter in the Indian aviation history.”
“After graduating college, I was jobless for a very long time, as there were no jobs for women pilots,” said Aggarwal. “I used to teach young students who were aspiring pilots.”
Aggarwal, who has more than 10 years of experience, said that her parents initially opposed her becoming a pilot. “When I initially told my parents I remember the tears in my mom’s eyes because I was expected to ‘walk in the shadow of men’ according to society,” said Aggarwal. “But I told my parents that this is what I want to do, and I broke away from the norms.”
India’s Minister of Civil Aviation, Hardeep Puri, congratulated the team on their journey. “In a moment to cherish & celebrate, women professionals of Indian civil aviation create history,” Puri tweeted on Monday. Heartiest Congratulations to Capt Zoya Aggarwal, Capt Papagari Thanmai, Capt Akansha Sonaware & Capt Shivani for flying over North Pole to land in Bengaluru from San Francisco.”
“This flight will create more opportunities for women,” said Papagari. “The idea of seeing aviation as a male-dominated field is reducing. We are being seen as pilots, there is no differentiation.”
India’s aviation sector heavily invests in training women to become pilots. About 12% of the country’s pilots are women — the highest percentage in the world, according to the Centre for Aviation.