While Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi has spurred a new era in the Indian defence forces by becoming the first ever woman fighter pilot in the country to fly solo, the women force in the civil aviation sector of the nation isn’t any less!
Did you know that India now has the highest percentage of women commercial pilots in the aviation industry across the world?
Out of the 10,000 commercial pilots in the country, about 12 percent are women. Though the number might seem small, it is significantly higher than the global average of 5.4 percent and surpasses the percentage of countries like France, Japan and US at 7.6, 5.6 and 5.1 percent, respectively.
From Durba Banerjee, who was the first woman pilot of Indian Airlines in 1956 to the 1,200 pilots in 2018, women in the Indian airspace have transitioned from being employed as only flight attendants to premier cockpit controllers.
This has been many decades in the making and has not happened without crushing down gender stereotypes and stigmas.
In fact, when an ambitious Durba had first approached Humayun Kabir, the then Central Aviation Minister, to apply as a commercial pilot, she had been offered the post of a flight attendant instead.
Even today, it is beyond the scope of many to fathom the possibility of women actually being capable of manning a massive aircraft as the first pilot, despite the fact that many of them have been in the industry for decades now.
It was only last year when Air India Captain Kshamata Bajpai and her all-women crew set the world record by flying all the way from Delhi to San Francisco, the longest direct flight route to commemorate International Women’s Day.
However, very few would know about the historic flight captained by Saudamini Deshmukh from Kolkata to Silchar in 1985, which was the world’s first all-women crew flight.
And as a precursor to this year’s Women’s day celebrations, an all-women crew aboard the flight AI 709 took off in the Kolkata-Dimapur-Kolkata sector today.
At present, commercial aviation in India is indeed witnessing a phenomenal boom with more women passionately striving to become a part of the airline industry.
An encouraging piece of information is that a fifth of students enrolling for a commercial flying licence in India are women, which is way higher than other countries. Even the gender wage gap in India is trivial in comparison to the blaring 16 percent global gap projected by Glassdoor.
Here’s to all women pilots in the country. Keep flying higher and never let them steal your thunder!