After they completing the longest non-stop commercial flight ever (17 hours long) operated by an Indian national airline, an all-female Indian pilot team made history this week.
The commander of the flight, Captain Zoya Aggarwal told CNN Travel, “We are India’s daughters who were given the opportunity to make this historic flight,”
“We were able to create a new chapter in the Indian aviation history.”
“I’m extremely proud to be a part of this and I have been personally preparing for more than a year for this flight,” she said.
“The view from the North Pole is superb,” said her co-pilot, Captain Thanmei Papagari, who flew the second half, adding that as women, they “had a point to prove that we can do the job.”
Captain Thanmei Papagari and Captain Zoya Aggarwal were joined by two first officers: Captain Akansha Sonaware and Captain Shivani Manhas.
Air India flight 176 departed from San Francisco on January 11, and arrived in Bengaluru, in southern India, on Monday at 3.07am India Standard Time (4.37pm ET), covering a distance of more than 8,600 miles. It is the first flight from South India to be directly connected with the United States.
Papagari said that “a lot of planning” went into the flight.”
Because we flew over the North Pole, there were varying factors involved,” she said. “This includes the weather, the solar radiation levels, and the availability of airports in case of a diversion.”
About 12% of the country’s pilots are women which is the highest percentage in the world, according to the Centre for Aviation. India’s Minister of Civil Aviation, Hardeep Puri, congratulated the team.
“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.”