With the Girls in Aviation Day to be celebrated on September 26, Captain Priya Paul from Chennai, a pilot from AirAsia India, in an interaction with DT Next, shared snippets of her life and achievements ever since she started flying in 1993. She also holds the distinction of belonging to the first batch of women pilots to join the IAF. “If you set your mind on doing something, it’s not hard. The only difference to becoming a pilot is that to get your licence, there are a few agencies involved, unlike a college degree which happens from a single institution. The process sounds daunting but it’s a well-oiled system. In the present day, the internet is full of information for anyone looking for it,” Priya said.
While discussing her experience when a flight was struck by lightning, Priya said, “Most passengers are scared of turbulence, but the day we were struck by lightning I realized how safe an aircraft can be. It was reassuring to accept something told to us during training.” About the COVID situation, she said the pandemic caight pilots unawares and witnessed how the travel sector had been affected. However, during the lockdown, she enjoyed family time and also honed her skills in cokking, painting and gardening. “I am not scared or worried about the changes in the industry. We have continually evolved,” she said. “The demand for air travel is increasing worldwide and once restrictions are lifted the industry should bounce back. On the brighter side, Indian aviation has had an advantage due to its customer base of 1.3 billion,” she added.
Priya’s word of advice for youngsters, especially women, dreaming of becoming pilots, is never to bow down, more so since India has the most number of women pilots. “Parents’ mindsets have also changed. One of the challenges faced is the financial burden. While loans are available, government flight schools also have scholarships. Joining the Air Force is also an option as all the training costs are borne by the government,” Priya stated.