Creating history, Air India's all-women crew, who had piloted the national carrier's longest flight from San Francisco by flying over the North Pole for the first time, landed at Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru on Monday afternoon.
The flight took off from San Francisco on Sunday, January 10 going over the North Pole and took the Atlantic route, covering a distance of 16,000 kilometers to reach Bengaluru.
The feat received an overwhelming response. Praising the team of confident ladies, who were able to handle the cockpit so efficiently, Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "Congratulations to the all-women cockpit crew for completing Air India's longest flight from San Francisco to Bengaluru over the North Pole. You have made the country proud."
Women redefining history
As per reports, it was not the first time when the national carrier flew over the polar region but no all-women team has had ever flown the aircraft on the same route earlier.
Zoya Aggarwal, who captained Air India's inaugural San Francisco-Bengaluru flight told reporters gathered at the Bengaluru airport, "Today, we created world history by not only flying over the North Pole but also by having all women pilots who successfully did it. We are extremely happy and proud to be part of it. This route has saved 10 tonnes of fuel".
Pilot Shivani Manhas said: "It was an exciting experience since it was never done before. It took almost 17 hours to reach here".
Captain Zoya Agarwal, Captain Papagiri Thanmei, Captain Akanksha, and Captain Shivani were jointly in-charge of the historic operation. They were joined by the airline's executive director of flight safety, Captain Nivedita Bhasin.
"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 North Pole. Our Nari Shakti achieves a historic first," tweeted Civil Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri.
Longest commercial flight
According to Air India, the AI176 flight flew at an altitude of 37,000 feet at a speed of 557 knots/1032 kmph. It was operated by a 12-year-old Boeing 777-200LR, registration VT-ALG and marked with the name 'Kerala' on the exterior and painted with the Mahatma Gandhi motif.
The plane had a seating capacity of 238 seats, with eight in first class, 35 in business class, and 195 in the economy. Besides the cockpit crew, there were 12 cabin crew on board.
So far, Air India operated non-stop flights from Delhi to New York, Newark, Washington DC, San Francisco and Chicago and from Mumbai to Newark and New York. But now the state-run carrier is also planning to start its first-ever non-stop service between Hyderabad and Chicago on January 15, 2021 and another five non-stop flights per week between San Francisco and Delhi Airport. The new Bangalore Airport service was launched in December 2015 and marks the first nonstop flight between India and the United States' West Coast.