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India's All-Women Pilot Crew Breaks All Stereotypes

January, 2021

In a society where aviation is perceived as a male dominant field, an all-women pilot crew from India is breaking all stereotypes. Four women-Captain Zoya Aggarwal, Captain Papagari Thanmai, Captain Akansha Sonaware and Captain Shivani Manhas from Air India made history as they completed the longest non-stop commercial flight ever. The inaugural flight AI176 connected two tech hubs - San Francisco and Bangalore, departing from San Francisco, USA at 8:30 PM (ET) on January 9 and arriving in Bangalore, India at 3:45 AM (IST) on January 11, flying over the North Pole and covering a total distance of nearly 16,000 kilometres.

Captain Zoya Aggarwal revealed that soon after graduating college, she was jobless for a long period of time as there were no jobs for female pilots. She utilised her time in teaching young aspiring pilots. “Today, we created world history by not only flying over the North Pole but also by having all women pilots who successfully did it. We are extremely happy and proud to be part of it, and I have been personally preparing for more than a year for this flight," she claimed.

Captain Papagari Thanmai shared with the media that “[This flight] will create more opportunities for women. The idea of seeing aviation as a male-dominated field is reducing. We are being seen as pilots, there is no differentiation."

This flight operation has also contributed in working towards climate action through reducing fuel consumption by saving 10 metric tons of fuel, and curbing carbon footprint. The success of this flight is monumental in the history of the Indian civil aviation industry and was praised by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri as he tweeted "In a moment to cherish & celebrate, women professionals of Indian civil aviation create history. 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,"

  • Written By Suhana Nanda

Suhana is a final year student majoring in Economics from Hans Raj College, Delhi University. Her interests lie at the intersection of problem solving, public speaking and gender equality.