“My dream is to fly
Over the rainbow so high…”
Gul Panag’s dream from the time she was a college-going girl is best described by this song. On her way to class in Patiala, where her father was posted by the Army, she’d go past the flying school hoping to fly in the open skies some day.
Almost two decades later, 37-year-old model, actor and politician Gul Panag has achieved her dream. She is now a pilot!
But don’t get visions of her flying you to your next destination yet. This accomplishment does not mean a change in profession for Gul Panag. Last year, she enrolled with the Chimes Aviation Academy in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, for a five- week course in hobby flying. Her licence allows her to fly private planes only. Her cherished dream was supported by her husband Rishi Attari.
“My husband helped me convert my dream into a goal. The emotions I felt when I took my first solo flight are inexpressible. The face that only a few exclusive adventurers have the ability to fly is exciting,” says Gul. She is looking forward to taking him on a cross country flight from Sagar to Khajuraho.
The Chimes Aviation Academy has a dedicated PPL (Private Pilot Licence) programme. “The academy has excellent instructors for both on-ground and in-flight training. Given my professional commitments I divided my course into four batches of ten days each. To clear the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) exam I had to dedicate a month and a half to studying,” says Gul. The PPL doesn’t allow the candidate to fly for reward or remuneration.
Next on her flying agenda is enhancing her licence to night and instrument rating. As of now, her licence permits her to fly under visual flight rule (VRF). Under VFR she can operate an aircraft in weather conditions clear enough for the pilot to see the aircraft’s direction.
That apart, Gul is now working towards buying her own aircraft along with other flying hobbyists.
Gul is a role model for other women who dream of rising above society norms and barriers that constrain them from fulfilling their dreams. However, her streak for adventure is not new. About two years ago she had a ‘Go Anywhere Vehicle’ built named ‘Super Milo’, a modified Scorpio Getaway. She uses it to take on treacherous roads in the Indian Himalayas. Her recent road trip in the North East will hit the tube in a few months, on Discovery Channel.
Having touched the skies, Gul is now getting ready to bring women together with her new initiative ‘Festivelle’. Conceived by her and her friend and television actor Shruti Seth, ‘Festivelle’ is an all-girls music, art, comedy, performance festival slated to take place on December 17 and 18 in Mumbai.