The sky is the limit
Two female pilots from Mumbai are in the midst of a record-setting adventure around the world
This August, Mumbai-based pilots, Captain Keithair Misquitta and Captain Aarohi Pandit, took off from Patiala, aiming to become the first women to circumnavigate the globe in an ultra-light motor glider. Now, two months and 27 stops later, they are back in Mumbai, grounded as a result of unnaturally harsh weather in Greenland.
But this temporary halt has not come in the way of record-setting. Last month, Pandit became the first Indian woman to fly solo over the Atlantic in an ultra-light—the two-seater did not have enough room for a co-pilot and a life raft. “I saw icebergs for the first time—and after a spell of difficult weather, I watched this beautiful whale jump up from the ocean. I was flying 1,000ft above sea level so the view was very clear," says Pandit about the 5-hour journey.
Their companion on this journey is a single-engine Pipistrel Sinus 912, which the two nicknamed “Mahi". The Mumbai-based not-for-profit Social Access Communications, in collaboration with the ministry of women and child development, conceived the expedition to provide aviation scholarships to women from towns (the team is accepting online donations to fund WE! Udaan Scholarships).
For the young pilots, the past two months unfolded as a heady adventure involving unpronounceable airports and unexpected delays in remote towns. “I was in Kulusuk in Greenland for 20 days because of bad weather," says Pandit. “The entire population there is 200 people, and I felt like I know each one of them!"
Though the percentage of female pilots in India (12%) is higher than the global average, Misquitta finds the statistics are far from heartening. “The numbers should be equal at the very least," she says, adding a word of advice for aspiring female pilots. “You have to work really hard to get those three stripes. You might picture yourself in a cockpit but it starts from cleaning the aircraft. We used to rush to the flying club at 4.30 in the morning so we could train with better winds."
Once they get an all-clear on weather, the duo will head back into the cockpit for the final stretch. Their inspiration in the skies has been a group of women who set sail on another historic journey in September 2017. “We often think about the INS Tarini crew—they were out in the ocean in a sailboat with just the six of them for a company. Their determination inspired us," says Misquitta.
You can donate to the expedition on Wefly.org.in