Monday, February 20, 2017

50 years of flying: Women pilots from Mumbai look back at the glass ceiling

Mumbai: For Rabia Futehally (82) and Mohini Shroff (81), co-founders of the Indian Women’s Pilots Association (IWPA), learning to fly in the early sixties was a challenge in itself in comparison to convincing her critics that they could fly. From being ridiculed about their interest in this field to managing time between home and attending classes, they are some of the earliest female fliers from the Bombay Flying Club, the oldest flying club in India.
Celebrating 50 years of IWPA, a non-governmental organisation founded in association with the club in 1967, Futehally recalls difficulties women used to face then in learning to fly. However, she is still looked upon as the first woman during her time who completed 11 hours of flying solo.
“A male counterpart in our classes would brag about completing 19 hours of flying solo. At that time, one of our trainers interrupted him and complimented me instead on doing a good job as a woman by completing 11 hours of flying without fear. I was a 25-year-old, mother to a nine-month-old, when I first climbed into the high cockpit of my favourite Piper PA-18 aircraft,” remembers Futehally, who is also the first woman pilot in the country to receive a private pilot licence (PPL).
While families supported them, others took time coming to terms with the concept of women wishing to fly, they say. What drove them to take the leap was a pure passion to be “in control”. “I was 21 when I took my first flight, post which I took flights over the eastern and southern parts of the country with ease. I still remember being called a ‘rare species’ when Rabia and I would enter the class to learn flying. I continue to fly at this age because I believe I can still be in control and also enjoy the thrill to fly,” says Mohini.
“For 35 years that I was into flying, I flew every single day. There was a time when I hit a turbulent patch while flying upon Goa and I began to lose height. With a cool head, I tried to re-work the motor and took control. Nothing can replace the happiness you get on flying a solo successfully,” adds Futehally.
20/02/17 Neha Kulkarni/Indian Express