Twenty-seven-year old Anupriya Bhatnagar, an air traffic control (ATC) official at Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport, received an unusual message while manning the ATC tower at Andheri on Friday. After the regular ‘call sign’, some pilots added a special message — ‘Happy Women’s Day’.
Bhatnagar was part of a first-of-its-kind initiative by the Air Traffic Controllers’ Guild (ATCG) where an all-women ATC crew took over the control units for a brief period, on International Women’s Day.
“This is for the first time an all-women’s team was in charge of the ATC,” said Prashant Patel, president (ATCG).
The 23-member team was dived into several batches and worked for 10-15 minutes in each section. The team manned ATC’s approach channel and took care of flights’ landing and take-off schedule.
The all-women team also took over the oceanic control room, which monitors airplanes up to 200 nautical miles away.
Even the control tower, which is used to keep a check on arrivals and departures and sees up to 44 movements per hour, was in their control for a brief period.
“It was a pleasant surprise for us. I appreciate the efforts of our male colleagues,” said VT Mariamma, who was the first woman to be become an ATC instructor in the city.
However, in reality, there are few women in the profession. Women constitute 20% of the national ATC’s workforce. There are only 24 women among 253 air traffic controllers in the city.