Air India just shattered a 38,000-foot glass ceiling by completing the longest nonstop commercial flight operated by an Indian airline. What’s more, the pilot team was composed entirely of women, putting an even finer point on the accomplishment. Air India Flight 176 left San Francisco at 8:30 PM local time on Saturday and arrived in Bengaluru, in southern India, 17 hours later, at 3:07 AM local time. This route is also the first to connect South India directly to the United States.
Captain Zoya Agarwal, who led the female flight crew, told CNN, “We are India’s daughters who were given the opportunity to make this historic flight. We were able to create a new chapter in the Indian aviation history. I’m extremely proud to be a part of this and I have been personally preparing for more than a year for this flight.”
The route required a significant amount of preparation. According to co-pilot Captain Thanmai Papagari, “Because we flew over the North Pole, there were varying factors involved. This includes the weather, the solar radiation levels, and the availability of airports in case of a diversion.”
Papagari, who flew the second half of the flight, hopes the achievement will inspire more women to become pilots and open up opportunities in aviation for women across India.
“The idea of seeing aviation as a male-dominated field is reducing. We are being seen as pilots, there is no differentiation.”
According to the Center of Aviation, India stands out as having the highest number of female pilots in the world. The country is also hailed for its encouragement and investment in training the next generation of female pilots.