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While most of us at sixteen were busy figuring out our colleges, teenage dramas, and more, 23-year-old Ayesha Aziz was working hard to become India’s youngest pilot after receiving a student pilot’s licence in 2011 by the Bombay Flying Club. Born in Kashmir, Aziz is also the youngest student pilot in India.
From Kashmir, With Love
“The first time I flew an aircraft with my parents on board, the greatest feeling I had was of independence... a sense of liberation,” Aziz told in 2017. Her love for flying emancipated during her frequent travel to Srinagar with her mother, a resident of Baramulla district in Jammu and Kashmir. Born in Kashmir and raised in Mumbai’s Worli area, Aziz’ parents would take her on trips to the Valley, and that’s when the idea of becoming a pilot crossed her mind.
Soar Higher And Higher
After securing her license form Bombay Flying Club, the Kashmir-born girl undertook a two-month space training course at Nasa in 2012 where she met John McBride, a celebrated retired NASA astronaut. At NASA, she completed her training in Space Shuttle Mission, micro-gravity, manned manoeuvring unit, multi-axis training and Extra-Vehicular Activity.
You Go, Girl!
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Her list of accomplishments does not end here. The young gun was one among the three Indians selected for the programme. "More than being India’s youngest pilot, I am happy for having accomplished my childhood goal,” she told in 2015. She also got a chance to meet her second inspiration, Indian-American astronaut Sunitha Williams, who fuelled her dreams by sharing anecdotes on scuba diving, moon-walk and bunny walk in space. Aziz also met Rabia Futehally, the first Indian woman to pilot an aircraft as a private pilot's license (PPL) holder in 1960.
Now, A Commercial Pilot
She flew a MIG-29 fighter jet at Russia's Sokul airbase in January 2012. Presently, Aziz is an honorary member of Indian Women Pilots' Association (IWPA), and pilots single-engine Cessna 152 and Cessna 172 aircraft. After her training, she received her commercial pilot license in 2017.
Despite fulfilling her dream and being an inspiration to many, Aziz faced backlash from a few naysayers, who derided her for not wearing a hijab. To which, Aziz rightly retorted, “If the Prophet’s wife Hazrat Ayesha could ride a camel in a battle, why can’t I fly an aircraft? We have to change our attitude.”