Illustration: Marcelo Cáceres

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re profiling influential women in aviation to gain insight into how they navigate through a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Apurva Sudhakar Gilche

Apurva Sudhakar Gilche had her first taste of flight when she was in college in Pune, India, and has never looked back. After completing a three-year training course, she pursued a Multi-Engine Commercial Pilot’s license and Instrument Rating in Australia.

There were few job opportunities for pilots when she returned to India, so she applied for a job with IndiGo as a flight attendant. After clearing additional entrance exams and tests, she made the transition to the flight deck, joining as a junior officer before being promoted to first officer and senior first officer. She currently flies for IndiGo as the captain of an Airbus A320 and has accumulated a total of 3,000 flying hours.

PSX_20170104_205808FAST FACTS

Location: PNQ

Now reading: Revising Flight Crew Operations Manual (FCOM)

Favorite airport: SIN

Brand of suitcase: Delsey

Paper or electronic boarding pass: Electronic

Passport stamp you wish you had: Norway

Female role model: My mother and my grandmother

Why is it important that women are represented equally to men (in terms of numbers and stature) in the aviation industry?

It is very important to inculcate the idea amongst the general public that women are no less capable than men in any way. This also adds to the confidence of young girls when they see pilots and think to themselves, “yes, I can!” There is no male or female gender in flying; we are plain aviators. Equality, without any gender bias, creates a sense of mutual respect.

How influential are women in today’s aviation industry?

Women are taking on challenging roles and are proving to be successful in every sphere, be it in defense, education, aviation, corporate or any other field. Slowly and steadily, women are making their mark in the aviation industry. At IndiGo almost 41.9 percent of the work force comprises women, around 25 percent of women are in leadership roles, all our cabin crew are women and female pilots compose about 11 percent of the entire pilot population at the airline. So women play a very pertinent role that is only going to expand in the future.

What are the biggest professional hurdles women in the industry face today?

Flying is a serious profession and I have come across excellent male captains and first officers who have consistently helped me grow. Most of the people I have crossed paths with have been very supportive. Having said that, there are all kinds of people in the world and dealing with some who carry baggage can be difficult.

IndiGo as an organization is a very safe place to work, and the company provides that safety net to one and all. Plus setting a sexual harassment policy in place at IndiGo instills a sense of confidence, makes women fearless and empowers them.

What would your advice be to a young woman interested in a career in your field?

Be mentally strong and focused on your goal. Don’t believe in anyone who says that you can’t do it, or that girls can’t fly! That’s a lie; women are equally capable. The success you achieve with your hard work and determination will be magical, and this will silence all the negative comments.

What are you most proud of in terms of your contribution to the aviation industry and/or women’s rights?

Having flown as a cabin crew member while there was scarcity of jobs, I know how much the crew is interested in getting to the other side of the cabin, the flight deck. I keep motivating cabin crew and the kids in the neighborhood to pursue flying. Many women never think that becoming a pilot is achievable, but it is. You just need to believe in yourself. As we say at IndiGo, be passionately consistent in order to get to that mountain you’ve chosen for yourself.

Who motivates you?

Despite being from a humble background, my father spent all of his life savings and investments on my training. I salute him for his confidence and courage. I could achieve my dream only because of him and my family’s support. He never differentiated between boys and girls.

My family has faced some hard times financially, but through this crisis they’ve stood rock solid behind me. My father, whom I consider my hero, never lost faith in my abilities. Nor did he let us feel the pinch of the economic hardship.