Captain Zoya Aggarwal in her Air India uniform(Facebook/@humansofbombay)
Captain Zoya Aggarwal in her Air India uniform(Facebook/@humansofbombay)

Meet Zoya Aggarwal, the woman who commanded world’s longest air route

Zoya Aggarwal knew at the age of eight that she wanted to be a pilot. She would spend hours on the terrace looking at planes in fascination.
By Khyati Sanger
PUBLISHED ON MAY 25, 2021 01:26 PM IST

Humans of Bombay recently featured the story of Zoya Aggarwal, the Air India pilot who made history by flying an AI176 through the world's longest air route. She made the record on January 9 as the captain of an all-women cockpit that took off from San Francisco to Bengaluru. While she made the headlines of several newspapers, her story was not that well known until she recently opened up about it.

Aggarwal knew what she wanted to do from a young age. At the age of eight, she knew she wanted to be a pilot. She would spend hours on the terrace looking at airplanes in fascination. However, she remained hesitant to share her aspirations with her family. “In the 90s, growing up as a girl in a lower middle class family meant that you weren’t allowed to dream beyond your means,” she says in the post.

She, however, gathered the courage to tell them after completing Class 10. “When I finally told them, Maa started crying, ‘How can you even think like that?’ and Papa said, ‘Pilot training was expensive!’” she says further.

Not ready to let go of her dream, Aggarwal decided to take Science in her Class 12 and Physics in her graduation. She also enrolled herself for an aviation course using up all her savings.

“For the next three years, from 6 AM to 3.30 PM, I’d attend college and then go to the other end of the city for my aviation course. It’d be 10 PM by the time I got back home to work on my assignments. When I topped college, I went to Papa and asked, ‘Now, will you allow me to pursue my dream?’ Hesitantly, Papa agreed to take a loan to pay for my course. I put my heart and soul into it and excelled,” reads the post.

The share goes on to describe her first flight to Dubai in 2004. And how this year in January, she made history. “I became the first woman in the world to fly across opposite poles,” she fondly looks back.

She is proud of her eight-year-old self who had the courage to follow her heart. “And that’s how I want to be, all my life,” she concludes.

Take a look at Aggarwal’s entire story here:

The post, shared on May 22, garnered around 10,000 reactions and 500 shares. Several netizens commented on the post wishing her success and thanking her for the inspiration.

“Wow, this young pilot has the pioneering, intrepid spirit of Amelia Earhart, it's amazing,” one remarked. “Your story will be an inspiration to my daughter. She wants to join Defense Service. Thank you,” said another.

Did this story inspire you as well?

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