Mumbai: Versova pilot is world's youngest Boeing 777 woman commander

Aug 10, 2017, 21:32 IST | Gaurav Sarkar

The 30-year-old Versova resident has been dubbed the youngest woman commander of a Boeing 777 in the world, but she's not resting on her laurels just yet

Anny Divya at her residence in Versova, Andheri. Pic/ Pradeep Dhivar

When you're already soaring high, how much farther can you go? Anny Divya is testing this out. The 30-year-old Versova resident has been dubbed the youngest woman commander of a Boeing 777 in the world, but she's not resting on her laurels just yet. There are more obstacles to surmount, more conquests to make.

The Boeing 777 is the largest twinjet aircraft in the world, and can seat between 300 and 400 passengers.

Divya's journey to success has been nothing short of inspirational: a small town girl busts ageist stereotypes to join a flying school at the age of 17, is hired immediately upon graduation at 19 by Air India, rises through the ranks and becomes a commanding officer of the world's longest-range commercial jetliner in just 10 years. Through her career, she has flown to most of Europe and West Asia. Today, she mostly flies to Washington DC, New York, San Francisco and Chicago in the US.

Living her dream
Divya, who has been residing in Mumbai for the last three years, says she's living out her mother's dream. "Since she was pregnant with me, my mother wanted me to become a pilot," says the daughter of a retired Army officer who did most her schooling in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh.

She isn't quite sure when her mother's dream turned into hers. "I knew I wanted to become a pilot before I completed Std XII, but I didn't know how to go about becoming one," she recalls.

Guidance came from unexpected quarters. Someone sent a fresh-out-of-school Divya -- she was only 17 at the time -- an advertisement on the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi, a government-run pilot training institute in Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh. "Till then, the academy only admitted those who had a few years of experience in flying, but mine was the first batch to have students with zero flying hours," she says.

Aiming high
Divya was the youngest student at the academy. There, she flew the light, single engine piston TB20 aircraft (used widely for training), and clocked nearly 250 hours in 27 months.

She joined Air India straight out of the academy in 2006, at the age of 19. She went to Spain for training and began flying the Boeing 737. After a few years, she trained in London to be certified to fly a Boeing 777. "I then came on as first officer on the 777, shortly after which I was up for command," she says. But to become a full-fledged pilot of the largest commercial jetliner, Divya needed more than an impeccable flying record. "I needed to pass written tests, and get an ALTP (airline transport pilots) licence, along with 1,500 hours," she says.

She got the licence in the following two-and-a-half-years, and she clocked around 1,500 hours.

The Boeing 777's command was then put in her assured hands in November last year, making her its youngest woman captain.
Dhananjay Kumar, Air India's spokesperson from Delhi, confirms her feat. "Yes, she is the youngest captain of a Boeing 777 in the world."

To date, Divya has clocked close to 5,000 flying hours for the national carrier.

Patience and passion
Asked about the biggest challenge that Boeing 777, an aerodynamic 'beast', poses, she says, "Because of its wide body and huge size, manoeuvring the plane is very different than flying a smaller-sized one."

Her tips for wannabe pilots: "Pursue aviation only if you have both patience and passion; patience because you might get a job only if the slot is available, and passion because it will help you maintain your patience."

She hero-worships her parents, and loves to explore the sights and sounds of New York City in her free time.

The making of a pilot

To become a commercial pilot, one needs to clear Std XII with maths and physics, as well as class 1 medical from a DGCA-approved medical centre. Then, one has to obtain the student pilot licence, undergo commercial pilot training and obtain a certifying licence from any DGCA-certified flying school. One also needs to obtain radio-telephony licence from the ministry of communications.

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