First Indian woman to command jet engine aircraft retires

The first Indian woman to have commanded a jet engine aircraft retired on Wednesday after serving as a pilot for the erstwhile Indian Airlines for thirty years.

In 1988, Captain Saudamini Deshmukh became the first Indian woman captain to command a Boeing 737. She also became the first Indian woman to command the Airbus A320 in 1994. Capt Deshmukh joined erstwhile Indian Airlines in 1980 as a co-pilot on the Fokker F27 Friendship turboprop aircraft.

"I never thought of it as anything special but by God's grace, there are a lot of firsts in my career. Whatever I did, I became the first woman pilot in India to do so," said Capt Deshmukh. "As a child, I had always wanted to become a pilot and by God's grace it happened," she added.

According to Deshmukh she did not hit the proverbial glass ceiling ever in her career. "In fact it was quite the opposite for me. Whatever job I undertook I was given a lot of support and encouragement by my peers and seniors. It was this support that helped as the job in itself was quite challenging and difficult," she said.

In her thirty years of flying, Capt. Deshmukh became the first Indian woman check pilot on the Fokker F27s in 1985 and in 1989 became the first captain to command an all-woman crew on a Boeing 737 from Calcutta to Silchar.

"In those days we didn't have the television channels but I was given a lot of coverage on Doordarshan and in the newspapers for commanding India's first all woman crew," she added.

In 1995, she again commanded the first all woman crew on an Airbus A320.

Capt. Deshmukh is also India's second woman pilot to become a captain of an aircraft, the first being Capt. Durba Banerjee who was India's first woman commercial pilot in 1956 and who became a captain on the F27s in 1966.

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