My Flight Over the North Pole: Air India’s Thanmai Papagari On Historic Trip of All Female Crew

Do you know that India has the maximum number of women pilots? Recently, an Air India flight created history by flying non-stop between San Francisco and Bengaluru and over the north pole. If that was not enough, it was operated by an all-women cockpit crew. Capt Zoya Agarwal, Capt Thanmai Papagari, Capt Akanksha & Capt Shivani after completed a landmark journey of about 16,000 km in 17 hours which is a first for any Indian airline.
We spoke to Capt Thanmai Papagari one of the pilots of the flight who shares with us this story of many firsts and takes us through how women in aviation are actually soaring high. Mumbai-based Capt Thanmai has been flying with Air India since 2005 and is a mother to two lovely daughters. This is how over the North Pole and around the world these four women made history.

Thanmai Papagari
Thanmai Papagari

Capt Thanmai says, “The Boeing 777 is a state-of-the-art aircraft, but we overcame difficulties that we faced during the planning, and scheduling periods. The north pole and the magnetic north pole are not located in the same position because of which you have this area of magnetic unreliability and that can cause issues in respect to navigation and communication. There are other factors like solar radiation and electromagnetic differences which can cause problems in communication. The weather the wind pattern may not be favourable. Other than that, as you fly up north the landmass is less towards the northern latitude, that means you have lesser airports. Some airports are covered in snow all through the year. The Boeing 777 is a big aircraft you can’t just land it anywhere you need proper infrastructure.”
To all the girls, who want to conquer the skies, Captain Thanmai says, “Dream big, aim high the north pole is also conquerable and most importantly don’t let anyone let you down.”
There are no genders inside a cockpit, “When we enter a cockpit we are all pilots there is no male or female everyone has their work cut out, clearly demarcated. The more women, the more the merrier, we got a lot more fun, a lot more to talk about. I don’t think the bully part is true” said the captain.
Thanmai share, “Growing up I was interested in aviation read articles and look at the flying club aircraft and kind of hope for it. I came to Mumbai for engineering and that’s when my aunt told me if you are so interested why not give it a shot.”
“We tend to be stereotyped, we need to break out of that bubble, we are very capable of multitasking, so we can handle work and home equally quite well. I have some of my friends, some of my daughter’s friend’s mothers who are my best friends help me all through I have had no issues at all. My mom and my mother-in-law are always ready to help me,” shares the Captain.
16/01/21 Deepashikha Chakravarti/She the People

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