Breaking the Barriers | Two from Mumbai becomes 1st Indian women to fly light sport aircraft around the world

It was just another day for the rest, but a special one for these Mumbai girls as for them it was the beginning of a new dream. A 22-year-old Aarohi Pandit and 24-year-old Keithair Misquitta embarked on a first-of-its-kind voyage to go around the world in a light sports aircraft called ‘Mahi’.

They are the first Indian women to touch this achievement.

Although the mission had to be temporarily terminated in Greenland because of terrible weather conditions, the two young pilots managed to fly the aircraft for 12,900 km in 27 hops, covering over 17 countries.

Aarohi Pandit also added another feather to her hat by becoming the first Indian woman pilot to have flown solo over the Atlantic Ocean in the light sports aircraft.

This voyage was conceptualized and executed with the support of Social Access Communications, in association with the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Debkanya Dhar along with one more pilot from Social Access Communications proved to be of great help to them. The idea was to fly this all-woman crew over 22 countries in 84 arduous legs for 100 days, over land, mountain, sea, and ice.

And once successful, it would be a world record made by the two Indian pilots.

It was also the first ever civilian circumnavigation by a non-commercial flight by India. The major cause of this journey was to raise funds for the WE! Udaan scholarship. Through which they train underprivileged girls to learn and earn from flying.

About their journey

Keithair said that they have not thought about going across the world in a small aircraft which is only meant for leisure flying even in their wildest dreams. She adds, “It was a huge challenge. We were just two girls flying with two bags full of aircraft tools!”

Aarohi and Keithair are trained at the Bombay Flying Club and they received special coaching to fly this aircraft in Serbia. Aarohi said that it was beautiful to see the sparkling blue ocean everywhere. When the engine fails while flying on land, one can still land, but flying over the ocean, there is nowhere to land. She added, “In the flight that lasted five and a half hours, I saw land only for 40 minutes during landing and take-off. The rest of the journey was just water and silence around 3,000 feet above sea level.”

Dhar’s statement says that Aarohi had to fly solo as the aircraft needed to have more fuel and when they have full tanks, the plane becomes heavy. Apart from this, there was safety equipment, food, and water.

Some other memories which Dhar talked about was a memorable touchdown for the two pilots in Iran, where they had to skirt mountains and cross the aircraft’s height limit of 10,000 feet. Then there was also Karachi, where crossing the LoC gave them cold shivers, whereas, the two women spent the night at Karachi airport lounge and flew out directly.

The journey had to be temporarily terminated in Greenland because of bad weather conditions. Otherwise, they were supposed to cross Canada, US, Russia and then return to India, but it could not happen. Dhar says, “Once the weather clears, they will start with the second phase.”

For now, their families are more than excited to see them back safe.


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