The flight crew of Air India, consisting of four women pilots, completed the longest direct commercial flight over the North Pole connecting the United States and India. Air India Express became the first Indian air carrier to operate such a long non-stop flight.
The airline’s Boeing 777-200, registered as VT-ALG, took off from San Francisco International Airport (SFO), the United States on January 9, 2021. After more than 17 hours of flight, the plane successfully landed at Bangalore Kempegowda International Airport (BLR), India on January 11, 2021. According to a flight record found on FlightRadar24.com, the aircraft flew at the speed of 470 kts over the North Pole, cruising at FL300.
According to Air India, the flight is the longest airline’s commercial operation ever and the longest flight in the world operated by any Indian airline. While Air India’s men pilots have flown over the North Pole earlier, it was the first time when the flight was operated by an all-women flight crew consisting of four female pilots.
#FlyAI : Welcome Home— Air India (@airindiain) January 10, 2021
Capt Zoya Agarwal, Capt Papagiri Thanmei, Capt Akanksha & Capt Shivani after completing a landmark journey with touchdown @BLRAirport.
Kudos for making Air India proud.
We also congratulate passengers of AI176 for being part of this historic moment. pic.twitter.com/UFUjvvG01h
“In a moment to cherish and celebrate, women professionals of Indian civil aviation create history,” posted Hardeep Puri, the Minister of Civil Aviation, on social media.
In a moment to cherish & celebrate, women professionals of Indian civil aviation create history.— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) January 11, 2021
Heartiest Congratulations to Capt Zoya Aggarwal, Capt Papagari Thanmai, Capt Akansha Sonaware & Capt Shivani for flying over North Pole to land in Bengaluru from San Francisco. pic.twitter.com/P6EvJChMGB
Speaking to local media, Air India Express captain Zoya Agarwal, the pilot who was commanding the historical airline’s flight, outlined that flying over the North Pole requires extremely high levels of piloting skills and experience. Agarwal became the first woman captain of Air India to command a commercial operation over the North Pole route.
“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,” said Aggarwal.
A day before the takeoff, the captain outlined that “women should have self-belief even if they face societal pressure not consider any task impossible ”.
According to FlightRadar24.com data, the distance between San Francisco and Bangalore reaches up to 14,000 km with a change of time zone around 14 hours.