by Darshan Devaiah BP
The first non-stop flight from San Francisco to Bengaluru, flown by four women pilots, landed at Kempegowda International airport in Bengaluru at 3.07 am on Monday, flying over the North Pole and covering a distance of about 16,000 kilometers.
All 238 seats were booked on the Air India flight (AI 176). The inaugural flight departed from San Francisco in the USA at 8.30 pm (local time) on Saturday and landed at the Kempegowda International Airport at 3.07 am (local time) on Monday.
The flight was operated by an all-women cockpit crew of Captain Zoya Aggarwal (P1), Captain Papagari Thanmai (P1), Captain Akansha Sonaware (P2) and Captain Shivani Manhas (P2), who responded to the cheers and clapping by showing the thumbs-up sign.
Air India will operate two non-stop flights per week to Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru, departing on Saturday and Tuesday. The return flight from Bengaluru arrives on Mondays and Thursdays. The first flight from Bengaluru to San Francisco is scheduled to take off on Monday afternoon.
The flights use state-of-the-art Boeing 777-200LR long-range aircraft equipped with 238 seats, comprising 8 First Class, 35 Business Class, and 195 Economy Class seats.
Speaking to reporters, Captain Zoya Aggarwal who has a flying experience of over 8,000 hours and has over 10 years of experience commanding a B-777 aircraft, said, “Today is the day we created world history by not only flying the route over the north pole, by having all women pilots who successfully did it and it is also amongst the world’s longest flights. So we are extremely happy and proud to be part of it and also extremely thrilled that our government and our airline has instilled this trust in us. We all did it together as a team.”
Captain Akansha Sonaware said that Air India has the most number of lady pilots in the world. “People are safe with us when they fly whatever distance and wherever they go,” she said while another Captain Shivani Manhas said that there is a lot of hard work that has gone into the flight. “It was quite an exciting experience for all of us,” Shivani said.
The crew also informed that the new route has saved fuel consumption, flying time, and curbing carbon footprint by flying over the polar route as the flight path. “We saved fuel about 2,000 kg to 10,000 kg on this special route over the polar region,” said Captain Papagari Thanmai.
Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted, “Way to go girls! Professional, qualified & confident, the all-women cockpit crew takes off from San Francisco to Bengaluru on @airindiain’s flight to fly over the North Pole. Our Nari Shakti achieves a historic first.”
The flight, which will operate twice per week, is Air India’s longest route in its network at approx 14,000 km (8,698 miles) and the longest flight to and from India (approximately 16 hours). “Despite the current subdued pandemic environment, the maiden flight from San Francisco was booked to capacity in all classes. This stands testament to the potential demand on this sector. This route is also one of the top 10 longest routes in the World, in terms of distance flown,” Bengaluru International Airport Ltd said in a statement. ( Indian Express )