New Delhi: Mumbai-based Ayesha Aziz is the youngest girl of Kashmir origin who will soon acquire the Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) and is probably set to enter the Limca Book of Records with her feats.
Having turned 18 on October 3, she is a member of Indian Women Pilot’s Association, besides holding the Flight Radio Telephone Operator’s Licence (FRTOL).
At 16, she was awarded with Student Pilot Licence (SPL) from the prestigious Bombay Flying Club and aims to pursue higher education in aviation and aeronautical engineering.
Setting an example of a role model for numerous youngsters, Ayesha’s pursuits have brought in a whiff of fresh air and inspired many girls who are following her to realise their dreams. Her achievements are not only being hailed in Kashmir, but all over the country.
Presently flying the Cessna 172R, a single-engine aircraft, Ayesha wishes to gradually progress to multi engine aircrafts and successfully complete her intensive and vigorous tests.
She speaks to Gulf News in an exclusive interview.
GULF NEWS: Like most children, would you run out of the house to see an airplane fly?
AYESHA AZIZ: Yes, the sound of a plane would grab my attention and I remember running out to catch a glimpse of a plane cruising possibly thousands of feet high. And as far back as I can recall, I was passionate about becoming a pilot even as a child.
How old were you when you enrolled yourself to be a pilot?
I enrolled at the age of 15, when I had just cleared Class 10. My father hails from an industry background and it was because of him that I got a broad exposure to various things and even at an early age, I knew what career path to choose. Moreover, not only in connection with the aviation field, my parents have supported and motivated me throughout my growing up days. Guiding me in my pursuits, they are a pillar of strength.
Do they worry or pray for your safety every time you take the flight?
Yes, like any other parent, they are, understandably, bothered about my safety. But their anxiety does not mean they will ever dissuade me to fly. I often find people gaping at me with their mouths wide open when they either see or hear about me flying an aircraft. I do not understand if the surprised look on their faces is because of any fear factor or my being too young. But I would like to say that in these modern times, youngsters are achieving greater heights in almost all spheres, so flying at an early age should not be a big deal. As for the fear of death in an accident, it can happen anywhere. From a gas cylinder burst or short circuit in the house to drowning in a pool or road rage mishap, anything can happen if that is written in our destiny.
When was it the first time that you sat in the cockpit of a plane to fly?
I flew Cessna 172R in January 2012 when I was 16 years and 3 months old.
How many exams did you have to pass and over a duration of how many months?
I had to clear two exams each for the Student Pilot Licence (SPL) and Flight Radio Telephone Operator’s License (FRTOL). It took me more than four months and I attended classes twice a week over weekends. I am now a proud holder of licences for both SPL as well as FRTOL. It was a great feeling when I was awarded these licences, for which I had pursued relentlessly and competed with students older than me.
Were you treated differently in the flying school because of your age?
When I enrolled into this course two years ago, I was the youngest and everyone treated me like a baby. It was a nice feeling, for I was in the midst of hobby flyers from various professions and was yet to experience stepping into the world of a professional flyer. Among my batch mates and also in the Bombay Flying Club, to date, I am the youngest candidate.
Had you or at any point of time felt like quitting finding the exams tough?
Honestly, whether the exams would be difficult or easy never occurred to me. In my enthusiasm, all that mattered was to acquire the licence to pilot an aircraft. I had the vision and believed in myself. And on enrolling, I was prepared to overcome any obstacle that came my way. Along with my studies, I was simultaneously attending classes for flying. I feel that being a pilot is in the mind and it has nothing to do with age. I just pursued my dream and knew that all it needed was just a bit of hard work.
It is said that technically a person cannot get a CPL at the age of 17. Were you vying to set a new record and get the rules changed?
Yes, the criterion for a CPL is 18 years and I was vying for it at the age of 17. But then I turned 18 on October 3 and am preparing for ground papers and at the same time continuing to fly, so that I soon have the CPL in hand. Also, to qualify as an airline pilot, one has to have 200 hours of flying on a Cessna 172 or Cessna 152. Flying is quite an expensive affair and for a single engine aircraft the price is Rs10,000 (Dh598.16) per hour and in the case of multi-engine aircraft the fee is Rs35,000 per hour.
Once you acquire the licence, which airlines would you choose to fly?
Though I do not have any particular airlines in mind, my aim is to begin with an Indian airline and gradually move on to foreign sojourns.
At a glance
Ayesha Aziz was born on October 3, 1995 in Mumbai to mother Khalida and father Abdul Aziz.
She was educated at the Christ Church School in Mumbai.
A NASA panel for space training programme in the United States selected her in 2012.
She completed her advanced training in NASA’s Space Academy Huntsville in Space Shuttle Mission, micro-gravity, manned manoeuvring unit, multi-axis training and Extra Vehicular Activity.