Sunday, August 13, 2017

Flying high -- aviator family clocks 100 years of flights

Crisp whites, peak caps, flight bags, four stripes on their shoulders -- and the love for flying -- are the constants for three generations of Bhasins, a unique aviator family.

Five members of the family -- parents, two children and their late grandfather -- have nearly 100 years of flying among them.

The grandfather and the pioneer in the family, Captain Jai Dev Bhasin, was among the first seven pilots in the country to become a commander in 1954. When his future daughter-in-law Nivedita Jain joined his company, Indian Airlines, she was the third woman to do so.

Today, she and her husband Captain Rohit Bhasin are proud parents of two young commanders, Rohan and Niharika Bhasin.

"Flying fascinated me for as long as I can remember.

Maybe when I was as young as six or seven," recalls the matriarch, 54.

Her face lights up recounting the most important day of her life as if it were yesterday.

"I was at a friend's birthday party when my father came running with an appointment letter for me from Indian Airlines. The day is etched in my memory. It was June 29, 1984," she says.

She was just 20 when she received the letter and in the next 11 years, went on to achieve her most cherished career milestones.

At 26, already a mother of a one-year-old, she received her command on Boeing 737, becoming the youngest woman captain of a jet plane in the world.

Seven years later when she became a commander on Airbus 300 - one of the bigger aircraft then in the world and also the first-ever wide-body aircraft- it would be the culmination of her dreams.

She also became a trendsetter when she co-piloted the world's first ever all-woman crew flight with a Fokker Friendship aircraft on the Calcutta-Silchar route in 1985.

Her feats set her apart and her children say they were in awe of her from their early days.

"As a a child I used to keep looking at her while she was getting ready for work and I really wanted to dress up like that one day," says Niharika, 26, who has been flying with IndiGo for over four years and received her command on the Airbus A320 recently.

Not having their parents around all the time during their childhood did not bother the siblings as it was the only normal they knew. That has changed since they started flying.

"I realise now how difficult it would have been to co- ordinate flying and bringing up two children. They made it seem so smooth, but in all honesty it's not," Niharika says.

Nivedita Bhasin was the first pilot in her company to become a mother and it was in the years following her first child that the company instituted a policy on maternity leave.
13/08/17 PTI/DNA

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