The Skys The Limit
They fulfilled their passion to fly and conquer the skies. With sheer grit and determination, they have fulfilled their dreams and made the nation proud. From co-piloting an all-women’s crew to waxing eloquently about patriotism and sharing close life-and-death encounters, these ace sky mavericks have achieved the unthinkable and made the nation proud. As the entire country gears up for the Republic Day celebrations, here’s a heartfelt Salute to some ace aviators!
Born To Fly
Half a century ago, in a patriarchal society, the idea of female pilots was unthinkable. But for some women, it was a distant dream. However, retired Captain Nivedita Bhasin converted her dream of flying into a reality. She went on to become the youngest female pilot in the world to command a commercial jet aircraft at the age of 26 in 1990. Reminiscing about her successful journey, Captain Nivedita says, “With unwavering determination, I always placed my best foot forward and overcame unwelcome situations in my career. A pinnacle in my career was when I embraced challenging roles during my command, steering an all-women’s flight from San Francisco to Bangalore via the North Pole.”
Reflecting on her flying club days, Captain Nivedita recalls grueling flights and resistance from some male colleagues. However, resilience, positivity, and hard work pulled her through. Captain Nivedita has many firsts to her credit such as co-piloting the World’s first all-women Fokker Friendship and Boeing crew in 1985 and 1989; commanding and being a check-pilot on the Airbus 300 and Airbus 330, becoming the first Widebody Type Rated Instructor at Air India, on the Dreamliner-Boeing 787 and attaining the position of Executive Director of Flight Safety (2020). Although now retired, Captain Nivedita remains steadfast in her mission to empower the next generation of women pilots. She is a passionate trekker too. Her advice to youngsters is: “There is no dream too big to achieve. Be sure of what you want. Focus on your goal with a single-minded devotion as there is nothing in the universe that can stop you.”
A National Hero
Becoming an Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter pilot entails height limits, rigorous physical fitness standards, mental resilience, and extensive training. Wing Commander C.M. Jaywant, SC, [Retd] is a force to reckon with. He was awarded the Shaurya Chakra [Gallantry award] for his undeniable calibre and accomplishments in serving the country. From chasing a total solar eclipse in 1995 for the ISRO to doing a 'dead-stick' landing, Wing Commander Jaywant has showcased the mettle required to be a true daredevil in the skies. His courage and presence of mind were proved while ferrying an Ajeet from Hindon to Srinagar. He experienced a sudden flameout at 1,400 metres. Despite failed attempts to relight the engine, he skillfully executed the first “dead-stick” landing on an Ajeet, averting damage to the aircraft. “Trained to stay calm in emergencies, I relied on split-second decisions where a millisecond’s delay would mean death. My professional training that had honed my flying instincts and judgment turned a risky landing into a successful one,” explains Wing Commander Jaywant.
Small Town, Big Dreams
A childhood dream of small-town pilot Captain Mohit Teotia (aka SpiceJet poetic pilot) was to reach for the skies. But this wordsmith cum pilot has won hearts and amassed a following of 80,3000 Instagram followers and over 23 million views.
His penchant for weaving poems with rhyming words in fluent Hindi has turned him into a star pilot in the skies and virtual space. His heartfelt messages of patriotism for Republic Day, Independence Day, and Army Day have made him a household name. “I was disheartened to see a crew dozing off beside me while important instructions were given, I came up with the idea of poetic announcements to capture people’s attention while giving out key messages,” says Captain Mohit. Beyond his Internet fame, Captain Mohit has won laurels for his patriotism and quirky demeanor. He extends his endeavors through the ‘Poetic Pilot Academy,’ mentoring aspiring aviators. “As a flight instructor, witnessing my students fly planes and traverse the skies fills me with immense pride,” says Captain Mohit.
Awards & Recognitions
In India, gallantry awards for pilots recognize and honor their exceptional bravery and valor. Among the distinguished awards are the Param Vir Chakra (PVC), the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) and Vir Chakra (VrC) and the Shaurya Chakra (SC). These awards extend to pilots who showcase unwavering dedication and valor, whether in direct combat or other challenging situations, commemorating their individual acts of heroism and the collective bravery of India's aerial defenders.
“Focus on your goal with single-minded devotion as there is nothing in the universe that can stop you.” Captain Nivedita Bhasin [Retd]
“My professional training that had honed my flying instincts and judgment turned a risky landing into a successful one." Wing Commander C.M. Jaywant, SC, [Retd]
“As a flight instructor, witnessing my students fly planes and traverse the skies fills me with immense pride.” Captain Mohit Teotia, (aka poetic pilot)
• Captain Nivedita Bhasin [Retd] became the world's youngest commercial airline captain in 1990 at the age of 26.
• Wing Commander C.M Jaywant, SC, [Retd] is a Shaurya Chakra award recipient for an act of gallantry.
• Aircraft pilot Mahasweta Chakraborty helped evacuate 800 Indian students from the borders of Poland and Hungary during the Russia-Ukraine war
• Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma AC, [Retd] was the first Indian to travel to space in 1984
• 15% of pilots in India are women as opposed to 5% globally (DGCA)
• DGCA issued guidelines for the aeromedical evaluation of transgender persons for obtaining medical clearance for a license
• India is the third country with the fastest-growing aviation market (10%)