Flown by 4 women pilots, Air India’s longest direct route flight lands in Bengaluru

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It marked a glorious moment for flyers when Air India’s Boeing 777-237 Long Range aircraft touched down at the Kempegowda International Airport at 3.07 am on Monday and later taxied to its bay by 3.25 am, a good 20 minutes before the scheduled arrival time.

Passengers between Bengaluru and San Francisco can now travel seamlessly between these two cities without a stop over at any other palce.

What makes flight number AI176, the longest flight ever operated by an Indian airline, so special is that it is also an all-women crew.

The four-member team of Captain Zoya Aggarwal, Captain Papagari Thanmai, Akansha Sonaware and Shivani Manhas as well as Captain Nivedita Bhasin, Executive Director, Flight Safety Section, who accompanied were given a round of applause by passengers and visitors to the airport when they emerged out the ‘Arrivals’ gate.

They had broad smiles on their faces with the joy of their achievement helping them overcome the fatigue of covering a distance of 13, 933 kms between the two cities in nearly 16 hours. Airport staffers also handed them red roses.

Among the first passengers to come out of the terminal was 78-year-old Govinda Naidu and his son Ramana Anugant. “I have waited 20 years for this day. I have brought my 78-year-old father and 67-year-old mother along. They both cannot walk properly and use wheel chairs. We do not have to change over at Delhi or Mumbai. It is such a relief.”

71-year-old Subramaniam from Malleswaram who paid 1811 dollars for a business seat said, “I got stuck in my daughter’s house in California due to the Covid epidemic for a year now. I finally decided to come home and it is such a relief to have a direct flight like this.”

Agarwal, commander of the flight said, “Today, we created world history by not only flying over the North Pole but also having all women pilots who successfully did it.”

Billing the trip as “a fantastic experience” Aggarwal said that it  challenging to fly over the North Pole. We have to be very careful when we enter the Polar Region and have received training for it. When you come out, it is completely dark.

29-year-old Captain Shivani Manas from J & K said, “I have just four years experience. I feel blessed to be given such an opportunity. This is an unforgettable day in my life.”

At 2.30 pm, the flight from Bengaluru towards San Francisco (AI 175) will depart with an all male crew commanded by CV Madhu. All the 238 seats on it have been booked.