Meet the 20-year-old girl who may be India's youngest pilot
This June, three women will make history by becoming the country's first female fighter pilots. In Mumbai, 20-year-old Ayesha Aziz has also broken a glass ceiling in the profession by becoming one of the youngest pilots in India.
Driven by her childhood dream of becoming a pilot, Aziz began training at the Bombay Flying Club in 2011, when she was 16, and got her student pilot license in the same year. She took her flying lessons over the weekends, attending school during the rest of the week. "I love adventure, travel and meeting new people," Aziz says. "I wanted to do something unconventional, and working as a pilot seemed especially unconventional."
Since getting her student license, Aziz is working towards clocking in the 200 flying hours that are required to get a commercial pilot license, which will enable her to work with an airline. She currently flies single engine Cessna 152 and 172 aircraft, and has completed 120 hours of flying.
While no one in her family in a pilot, Aziz attributes her success to her parents, especially her father, "who keeps motivating and pushing me". Aziz says that she was fascinated by seeing aircrafts land and take-off as a kid. "Flying works against gravity, you give up everything that gets you down," she says.
Her role models include astronauts such as Sunita Williams, and she was further encouraged to pursue her childhood dream when she was selected to visit the NASA headquarters in 2012 to learn what it takes to be an astronaut.
"It is challenging to be a pilot. You always have to be ahead of the aircraft and quick to take decisions. You need presence of mind and you need to multi-task," Aziz adds. "When you're inside a cockpit all the worries have to be left behind, and your mind is focused on what you're doing at that moment."