She is Ayesha Aziz hailing from Khawaja Bagh in Baramulla, Jammu and Kashmir. Pursuing her childhood dream of becoming a pilot, she finally succeeded in becoming the youngest pilot in India and the first Muslim female from Kashmir to win this laurel! She is 20-year-old now.
Childhood dream – being unconventional
Like all other kids, Ayesha, too, would get excited and run out of home every time she heard a plane cruising high in the air. But unlike other kids, additionally, she would also dream about becoming a pilot even as a child. She later shifted to Mumbai with her parents and younger brother. However, her passion for airplanes and flight was fuelled every time she would fly from Mumbai to her native place in Kashmir, twice or thrice a year. “While I would enjoy take-off and landing of the plane, my brother would be scared and always sleep during the flight.”
She always wanted to do something unconventional and challenging. Soaring high in the sky made it clearer each time that this was her aim in life. After all, this was unheard of since it is against gender stereotypes! She knew that she had the passion to excel in a field not usually considered by ladies as a profession in a male-dominated India.
Stint with NASA and meeting role models:
The inspiring young lady was fortunate enough to be chosen to visit NASA while studying in class 12th at Christ Church School, Mumbai. A NASA team had chosen her along with two boys. There she met John McBride and participated in activities like scuba diving, moon walking and bunny walk – all essential for an astronaut to know.
The icing on the cake was in 2013 or 2014 when Ayesha met her second idolized person, Sunita Williams when she was on a brief trip to Worli. Her happiness knew no bounds as she shared with Williams her own experiences at NASA. Truly enough, when someone is driven by passion, he or she finds a way to interact with his or her inspirations in real life! This was not luck but sheer determination.
When one dreams of achieving one’s ambitions, the most important factor is support from family. This came from Ayesha’s parents who stood like a rock beside her. They guided her in all her pursuits throughout her growing up days. Coming from an industrial background, her father made sure to expose her to various things at an early age. When he came to know about her dream, he encouraged her to enroll for flying classes at the young age of 15, just after finishing her class 10th exams. In fact, the first time she entered the cockpit of a plane was when she was 16 years and 3 months old. She flew Cessna 172R in January 2012. Like any normal parents they do worry about her safety whenever she flies, but this concern of parents is understandable. This anxiety does not mean they dissuade her from flying.
What surprises Ayesha is when people gape at her with their mouths wide open seeing her, or hearing about her flying. Since she is used being fearless from her childhood days, she does not comprehend whether they are amazed because they are afraid for her or because she is too young. She would like to tell those people that we are living in modern times, where youngsters break all barriers and attain success in a variety of fields, and aviation is just one of them.
What if the plane crashes and dies? She brushes this concern aside by saying that death has no fixed time or location. One can die of a heart attack while sleeping in home, or in a car accident, or due to the vagaries of nature. Living in constant fear of death which is unpredictable is living like a dead person anyway. So Ayesha lives her life and dream to the fullest!
Number and duration of exams:
In order to attain two licences – Student Pilot Licence (SPL) and Flight Radio Telephone Operator’s License (FRTOL) – Ayesha attended classes twice a week or on weekends in addition with her school. This took more than four months and she bagged both. She got her Student Pilot Licence one month after she turned 16, setting the record of the youngest woman pilot in India. Prior to that there were ground classes and five rounds of viva. The commercial pilot licence got delayed due to some financial issues.
The thought whether the exams were tough or easy never crossed her mind since she was following her goal single-mindedly. Age also did not matter for her since pursuit of dreams originates in the mind – determination is the mantra. Competing with students older than her did not matter. What a proud moment for her when she crossed the first hurdle and entered the flying school!
Bombay Flying Club:
When she had joined her class of 40 students, she was treated like a baby, being the youngest. She enjoyed being pampered while holding her head high with the other three woman pilots. To get the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) one has to finish 80 hours of the total 200 hours of It is to be noted that the minimum age eligibility for this licence is 18 though she was hoping to get it at 17 years of age. She turned 18 on 3rd October before getting the licence.
She flies single engine Cessna 152 and Cessnal 172. Flying costs Rs10,000 (Dh598.16) per hour for single engine aircraft and Rs 35,000 per hour for multi-engine one. She has crossed this barrier, too. Once she bags her CPL, she would like to join an Indian airline, moving on to foreign flights in future.
The Logical Indian community is proud of Ayesha for setting an example worth emulating for youngsters in India – to chase and attain their dreams despite all barriers and cynicism of spectators! We laud her for her records and wish her best of luck for her future career goals!