Training India's next generation of female pilots imageTraining India's next generation of female pilots image

On a dusty, 3,600-foot-long airstrip in Rajasthan, India, a two-seater white Cessna 152 pivots into position. A few moments later, it’s soaring over the empty desert into a cloudless blue sky.

This is the private runway at 1,100-acre Banasthali Vidyapith – one of India’s premier women’s universities.

Since its establishment in 1962the university’s School of Aviation has produced more than 5,000 alumnae, with dozens more in the pipeline.

“In a country where many people don’t want to invest in girls, which is the mentality of most traditional families, Banasthali Vidyapith creates a place where women are equally important,” Captain Tarana Saxena, a recent graduate, tells CNN Travel.

“They give girls a chance to learn about aviation … a chance to fly.”

A big step for women

In 2016, Indian Minister of Defence Manohar Parrikar congratulates the Indian Air Force's first three female fighter pilots: Bhawana Kanth (L), Avani Chaturvedi (C) and Mohana Singh.

The inspiration for Banasthali Vidyapith University sprung from tragedy.

 

Founder Hiralal Shastri, a politician who was born into a peasant family in Rajasthan, relocated to the village of Vanasthali in 1929 with his family.

 

In this rural outpost, about 50 miles south of Jaipur, he founded a social program to reconstruct the village and educate local farmers.

At a very young age, his daughter embraced his passion and began holding classes for village children.

Tragically, she fell ill at the age of 12 and passed away.

Is there any girl pilot in India?

 
 
Sarla Thukral, first lady pilot in India, was a trailblazing figure known for her remarkable achievements in aviation, entrepreneurship and the arts. In the vibrant history of aviation, Sarla Thakral emerges as a pioneering figure who fearlessly defied societal norms.

How many female airline pilots are there?

The number of US women airline pilots grew by 71% from 2002 to 2022. As in many sectors of the economy, data for the US are the most extensive. There were 8,206 women holding FAA certificates as airline pilots in 2022 (as noted above, this was 4.9% of the total)

Is pilot a good job for a girl?

1. Being a Pilot is one of the most rewarding and exciting career choices out there and it is no different for female Pilots in India. From the moment they start their Pilot Training and go on to become a pilot, female Pilots in India can gain numerous benefits in terms of career and personal growth.

Do pilots have more girls than boys?

Snyder gath- ered data from 236 pilots from all types of aircraft and found an overall male-to-female sex ratio of 113:109 (222 total off- spring, 50.9% male), which was consistent with the general population. However, of the 94 offspring conceived by fighter pilots, the sex ratio was 35:59 (36.0% male).

Can a 5ft girl be a pilot?

There are no specific height restrictions for pilots under FAA rules. Flight schools and commercial airlines accept pilots for training as long as they are physically able to reach the controls and obtain a full rudder deflection in the aircraft they will operate.

Can 4/11 be a pilot?

The answer is yes. You can become a pilot if you are 4′11. There are no height restrictions, you just have to be able to pass the exams and training. You may or may not need to bring a booster cushion depending on how much the seat can be adjusted, though

A patch of turbulence

Captain Tarana Saxena poses with beside a Cessna at Banasthali Vidyapith University.

Growing up in the town of Bilari, in Uttar Pradesh, Saxena has had her eyes on the sky ever since her parents gave her a toy airplane when she was about five years old.

“Even though the toy couldn’t actually fly, I remember playing with it, and wondering how these things stayed in the sky,” says Saxena.

She lived in a town where there was no airport, not many people spoke English and it was a big deal if a girl rode a bike.

“Luckily, I grew up with parents who supported me,” says Saxena. “One day my father saw an ad for the flying club in the newspaper and he applied for me, when I was still in boarding school [high school].”

But pursuing aviation isn’t easy. For starters, it’s expensive. At least 200 flight hours are required to achieve a commercial pilot’s license and each hour costs Rs10,000 ($135).

In total, the license will cost roughly 20-35 lakh Indian Rupees, or about US$28-47,000, though the university provides scholarship programs.

“Banasthali is trying to nurture more women leaders in aviation,” Professor Seema Verma, dean of the School of Aviation, tells CNN Travel.

“A lot of Indian parents don’t want to spend so much on training for their daughters. There are exceptions, of course. Some parents have dreams (for their daughters) in sync with our mission.”

Saxena says her parents – her mom, a doctor who works with unprivileged people; her father, a professor – endured an onslaught of judgment from neighbors, who questioned their investment in a girl.

“We live in a society where people judge – why are you spending so much on your daughter? Why are you letting your daughter to that? Girls can’t drive. How can they fly?”

Saxena’s parents encouraged her to ignore the noise and follow her dream.

“No one in my family was ever in the aviation industry. But my parents wanted us to be whatever we wanted to be – my sister wanted to be a doctor, she is a doctor. I wanted to be a pilot, I am a pilot.”

When Saxena moved to Banasthali in 2012, she couldn’t wait to take her first flight.

In December 2013, the day finally arrived. An instructor accompanied her as she settled into the cockpit of a Cessna 152A, a common training aircraft.

“I remember my instructor warned me that I might feel dizzy or a little nauseous, but I didn’t feel anything but excitement,” says Saxena.

“I couldn’t believe how amazing it felt to be in the air. I wanted five more minutes, 10 more minutes…I wanted it to last forever.”

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