Friday, March 24, 2017

India’s youngest student pilot set to earn her ‘wings’, fly passenger plane

Mumbai: A few heads turn as 21-year-old Ayesha Aziz breezes into a coffee shop in south Mumbai, clutching a sheaf of papers. She blames the city's traffic for being late as she settles down to talk about getting a commercial pilot's licence (CPL) within a day or two and flying passenger aircraft soon.

The city-based Rehmani Group will felicitate Aziz at Islam Gymkhana near Marine Lines on Friday.

Aziz, who became the country's youngest student pilot at 16 on receiving a student pilot's licence in 2011, epitomizes courage, diligence and perseverance to follow a dream. At a time when conservatives jump at every opportunity to curtail women's freedom, Aziz, the daughter of a businessman from Worli, has worked hard to earn her wings. "The first time I flew an aircraft with my parents on board, the greatest feeling I had was of independence ... a sense of liberation," says Aziz, who graduated in aviation from the Bombay Flying Club last year. So far, she has flown single-engine aircraft for 200 hours for her training.
 Aziz credits her success to her father, Abdul Aziz. "I have always believed that knowledge and enquiry are keys to human progress. If my child had a dream which was achievable, I had to be part of the process and see that she realized this dream," says Abdul Aziz, who is married to a Kashmiri.
 And here lies a related tale. As a child Aziz would accompany her mother to travel to Srinagar by air. "I got fascinated by pilots. As I grew up, my fascination only increased and I finally landed up at Bombay Flying Club," says Aziz.
When news of her becoming the youngest student pilot was splashed across media platforms, many celebrated, but a few naysayers, especially the conservatives in Kashmir, derided her. "A Muslim girl without hijab, not a perfect profession for a Kashmiri girl" and similar disapproving comments were hurled at her.
"If the Prophet's wife Hazrat Ayesha could ride a camel in a battle, why can't I fly an aircraft? We have to change our attitude and do justice to girls," says Aziz, who can win any debate on gender rights hands down.
24/03/17 Mohammed Wajihuddin/Times of India