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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Three Female Pilots In India Who Are Claiming The Skies With Their Determination

  • IWB Post
  •  March 12, 2018

Indian aviation sector is gradually expanding its horizons for female pilots as they are taking over the skies with their resolve. Consequently, Indian women pilots have already surpassed the global average of the women in the sector with 12 % of the 10,000 commercial pilots being women.

Here are three women pilots who have claimed their share of the sky with their heads held high and sans any inhibitions.

A pilot is a pilot. It does not matter whether you’re a man or a woman: Avani Chaturvedi

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Flying officer Avani created history as she flew a MiG-21 Bison and became the first Indian woman fighter pilot to fly solo. Chaturvedi says, recollecting her flight, “When we sit in the cockpit and close the canopy, any feelings of achievement, empowerment, and so on are left on the ground. We don’t carry them in the air. The aircraft is so fast and the reaction time for any situation is so little that we don’t have time to think about anything else.”

Chaturvedi, along with Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh, was commissioned into the IAF in July 2016. They are India’s first batch of women fighter pilots. It was decided in  October 2015 to open up the fighter stream to the women on an experimental basis and the second batch has already been selected for training now.

A warning on the canopy audio caused by some confusion on her second sortie when she was flying solo had her nerves flaring but she managed the flight. “That day I realised how the decision of a split second can get the situation under control or push it out of control. Had I delayed my decision to abort take off or gone airborne with the canopy open, the consequences could have been catastrophic,” said Chaturvedi.

When I was a young girl, my eyes were always turned to the sky: Nivedita Bhasin

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Fifty-four-year-old Nivedita Bhasin boasts of an illustrious career spanning over four decades. Nivedita flew for the first time when she was 16 and became the youngest woman pilot in India at the age of 26. “I first went to a flying club. But the clerk there scoffed at me. ‘Go back and study,’ he said.” This was the starting of a number of joyrides that she gave to her friends. It was in 1984 that she joined Indian Airlines as a pilot.

“It never occurred to me that flying a plane might be difficult for a girl,” says Nivedita as she recalls how she dreamt of flying the biggest aircraft of Indian Airlines. Unhindered by any self-doubts Nivedita achieved her goal in the year 1997 when she captained the biggest aircraft back then which was Airbus A300. She now captains 787 Dreamliner and believes that if you start something you ought to finish it.

The big breakthrough for her came in the year 2011 when she had to fly to war-torn Libya as part of a government rescue mission. Nivedita shared, “We would spend hours on the ground at Tripoli, not knowing when we could return to India as we were dependant on the Indian passengers being released by the Embassy in Tripoli.”

I was a big rebel, I said no: Shivani Reddy 

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Shivani Reddy was a big rebel since her childhood and that became a driving force for her to become a pilot. She explains, “I was a big rebel, I said no. By the time I was in my final year of college, they had stopped badgering me about becoming a pilot. And that’s when I decided to become a pilot.”

Very few pilots are allowed to fly to Port Blair owing to “unidirectional runway with crazy weather” there. Shivani Reddy is one of those preferred pilots who is trusted with her flying skills. But the picture not always this rosy.

“People look. If you are a girl, they stare. I’ve had a lot of people telling me things like, ‘You are a girl and you are flying. Are we safe?’ says Reddy talking about how she has to face prejudices on a daily basis. ’ You know, when a girl is driving a car, how people comment? Same thing,” she adds.

H/T: The Hindu

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