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SKY IS NOT LIMIT FOR HER

Pilot Snigdha is on Cloud Nine, not physically in the flying machine she handles with great elan, but in spirit and energy. Why not? At an age when many of her peers grope to keep their feet firmly on the ground, she has reached the enviable heights of success by logging in 20,000 hours of commercial flying. Right now she is at the threshold of a life-altering and ecstatic adventure. Yes, to be precise, she is shortly taking off into the wonderful world of motherhood. We catch the ‘hi-fly’ lady taking a short break and substituting air safety manuals with What to Expect When You're Expecting. The First Officer, Jet Airways, talks of her tryst with aviation in detail and explains at what altitude she is cruising right now. Her eloquent eyes and enchanting smile embellish her unassuming disposition and articulate narration.

EXCERPTS
Mother, an air hostess and father, a bureaucrat turned Member of Parliament - what made you opt for piloting?
I was introduced to aviation at a young age. My mother was an air hostess with Air India. My visits to the cockpit used to thoroughly intrigue and make me wonder how a plethora of buttons of the cockpit enables the pilots to fly this enormous aircraft, carrying hundreds of passengers.

How did your family react?
My mother was happy but my father was initially skeptical. He wanted us to go for civil services as he himself was an IRS officer.

Did they fly in the aircraft piloted by you? Not yet, but during my training days in Miami, I did fly my father.

What was the first time like?
A dream come true. I was thrilled to control the aircraft. I was 22 years old at that time and had gone for flying training after obtaining my B.Tech degree. Now I am working for Jet Airways.

Did you fly big birds?
It took 8 months to complete my commercial pilot training in Dean International Flying Academy, Miami, Florida. I fly the Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft. It has a passenger capacity of 162.

What are the challenges?
Every flight, every takeoff and every landing is a challenge in itself. However, I am confident in handling them or emergencies. Thanks to the intense training.
Were people nervous about being flown by a young pilot? Surprisingly, no. I have always encountered people who have faith on the stripes I sport.
On condition of our aircrafts... Every aircraft undergoes rigorous and mandatory checks lid down by the airline & DGCA to maintain her airworthiness. So, there is no scope of flying substandard crafts.



Female pilot, any bias?
I have never faced anything like that. I was appreciated more for being a lady pilot. I aced all exams and earned a lot of appreciation for my flying skills. There are some professions that are gender neutral and I am lucky to be a part of one.

The biggest change seen...
The big influx of women as cockpit crew. Earlier, there were merely a handful of lady pilots.

What opportunities does aviation offer women?
Aplenty. Commercial piloting is a good career option even for women as airlines are supportive and help them balance their family and professional lives.

Favourite airport landing site...
Night landing at Mumbai airport is my favourite! One has to sit in that seat to know how it feels and to experience the thrill of landing on a brightly lit runway.

Most memorable flight...
Once after facing severe turbulence due to bad weather at Kolkatta, we landed safely with a smooth touchdown. All the passengers, while disembarking, sent appreciation and respect our way.

Who is your aviation hero?
In our airlines, Capt.Harleen Sarna is my idol. I have learnt a lot from her. The other icon is Capt.Chesley Sullenberger who saved the lives of all the passengers by successfully landing an aircraft on the Hudson River, New York.

A little about your personal life...
My father, Dr.Pandula Ravindra Babu took VRS from Indian Revenue Services as a Commissioner and then became a Member of Parliament Lok Sabha representing Amalapuram as a TDP candidate. My mother, Suneetha R.Babu, served as an Air Hostess in Air India for 35 years. My younger sister Shruthi, who studied at National Institute of Design, is now working as a lead designer in the communications design team at Godrej Consumer Products Ltd., Mumbai.

Any plans to land in politics?
Politics is not my cup of tea. My future plan is to become a commander and my goal is to set an example for my children and be a role model who balances both family and career efficiently.

Do you like to see your baby emulate you?
As a mother to be, I want my child to grow up to be a good human being first. He/she should stand on his/her own feet and be a role model to his/her own generation.

Quick Bites
To uncomfortable passengers...
It is the safest transportation mode.
Top flying tip?
Pay attention to the announcements.
The best flying advice ...
Fly the aircraft safely first.
One question you face the most...
Don't you ever get scared?
The best part of your job...
Watching the sun rise at 35,000 feet above the earth.
Things in your pilot's bag...
Licences, documents and an iPad
If you could fly anywhere today ...
John F. Kennedy airport for an amazing Manhattan view.
Your tip to aspirants...
It is an exciting but a challenging career. Pursue only if you have the passion for it.
...to young women
Come and explore, it is a whole other world out here. I would say, go for it!

HER THOUGHTS

  • There is a misconception among people that aviation, especially commercial piloting is a man's world and that it is not a feasible career option for women. That is a myth.
  • In this industry, women's needs are very much catered to. For example, you are given ample maternity leave without you losing out on seniority, allowing lady pilots to make a mark in the industry today.
  • We have a lot of lady captains holding senior positions in our airlines, even as instructors and examiners.

 
 
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