Air India women pilots set to script history

An all-women pilot team of Air India will fly over the North Pole as part of the world’s longest air route. The flight from San Francisco (SFO) will reach Bengaluru on January 9 covering a distance of about 16,000 kilometres.

“Flying over the North Pole is very challenging. Airline companies send their best and experienced pilots on this route. This time, Air India has given the responsibility to a woman captain for the journey from San Francisco to Bengaluru via the polar route,” an Air India official said.

AI Captain Zoya Agarwal, who will be commanding the flight, and her team are eagerly waiting to make history on January 9. “Most people in the world will not see the North Pole, or even its map in their lifetime. I feel truly feel privileged and humbled by the trust vested in me by the civil aviation ministry and our flag carrier. It is a golden opportunity to command the Boeing 777 inaugural SFO-BLR, one of the world’s longest flights, over the North Pole,” Captain Zoya Agarwal told ANI.

“I am extremely proud to have with me experienced women team comprising Captains Thanmai Papagari, Akanksha Sonawane and Shivani Manhas. This is the first time an all-women pilots’ team will fly over the North Pole and create history of sorts. It’s indeed a dream come true for any professional pilot,” she added.

According to aviation experts, flying over the North Pole requires skill and experience.

“The thrill of actually realising that you will be passing the North Pole where the compass will flip 180 degrees…something which is fascinating indeed,” Captain Zoya said.


The longest flight over the North Pole will be another feather in her cap as she was the youngest woman pilot to fly a Boeing 777 in 2013. “I am the youngest woman commander in the world on Boeing 777. Women should have self-belief even if they face societal pressure and not consider any task impossible,” she said.

She will become the first woman commander of Air India to command a flight over the North Pole. Though Air India pilots have flown taken the polar route earlier, it is for the first time a team of women pilots will fly over the North Pole.

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Sagar Biswas

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