An all-women pilot team of Air India will fly over the North Pole on the world’s longest air route as the carrier’s first non-stop service between San Francisco and Bengaluru will start on Saturday. Captain Zoya Aggarwal, Captain Papagari Thanmai, Captain Akansha Sonaware and Captain Shivani Manhas will be among the all-women pilot team to fly the longest commercial flight in the world.
The flight will be commanded by Captain Aggarwal, who has a flying experience of more than 8,000 flying hours. She has command experience in a B-777 aircraft of more than 10 years and more than 2,500 flying hours. She was also the youngest woman pilot to fly a Boeing-777 in 2013.
“Women should have self-belief even if they face societal pressure and not consider any task impossible,” Captain Agarwal said. “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 a history of sorts. It’s indeed a dream come true for any professional pilot,” she told news agency ANI.
Flight AI 176 will leave San Francisco at 8:30pm (local time) on January 9 and arrive at Bengaluru at 3:45am (local time) on January 11. “This will be the longest commercial flight in the world to be operated by Air India or any other airline in India…The total flight time on this route will be of more than 17 hours depending on the wind speed on that particular day,” Air India said in a statement.
Civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri also congratulated the women on Twitter. “Air India’s woman power flies high around the world. All women cockpit crew consisting of Capt Zoya Aggarwal, Capt Papagari Thanmai, Capt Akansha Sonaware & Capt Shivani Manhas will operate the historic inaugural flight between Bengaluru & San Francisco,” Puri said.
Air India has said that the flight will operate on Saturdays and Tuesdays with a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft VT ALG with a seating capacity of 238 seats, including eight first-class, 35 business class,195 economy class configuration besides four cockpit and 12 cabin crew.