Thursday, January 07, 2021

AI’s longest non-stop, San Francisco-Bengaluru, inaugural to be operated by all women pilots

New Delhi: An all-women cockpit crew will operate Air India’s longest nonstop — San Francisco (SFO)-Bengaluru — which starts this week. The airline has rostered four of its highly experienced women pilots to fly a Boeing 777-200 (long range or LR) for the January 9 inaugural from SFO to Bengaluru, taking the polar route enroute Bengaluru for the first direct scheduled flight between south India and the US.

“Two sets of two pilots each operate our ultra long flights by turn. We have rostered an all-women cockpit crew of four pilots for the SFO-Bengaluru inaugural on January 9. Our head of flight safety, a senior woman commander, will also be on board. While it depends on weather conditions of the day, we are planning the B777 will fly over the north pole enroute Bengaluru,” said a senior AI official.

The four pilots — Captains Zoya Agrawal, Thanmai Papagari, Sonwane Akanksha and Shivani Manhas — operated Delhi-SFO late on Wednesday with AI’s executive director of flight safety, Captain Nivedita Bhasin, on board. These pilots will operate the SFO-Bengaluru inaugural on January 9.

Bengaluru-SFO shortest flight distance is over 14,000 km, about 1,000 km more than Delhi-SFO. Very often airlines take longer routes to get tail winds and avoid headwinds. The AI flight, for instance, took the Pacific route from Delhi to SFO. The inaugural to Bengaluru will take the Atlantic route over North Pole — getting tail winds on both sectors.

AI’s Delhi-SFO is very often around the world trip for this reason as it circumnavigates the globe on the way out and back. The longer Pacific route means flying a distance of 16,234 km from Delhi to SFO but due to tail winds all the way, both flight time and fuel burn are less than what that will be on the shorter Atlantic route.

United will start operating a direct flight on Bengaluru-SFO from May 6, 2021. United says that this route will be the longest operated by any US carrier, and the third longest in the world.

07/01/21 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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