Instead of a Zero, She Scored a 787

By Nivedita Bhasin

June 2016

My love affair with Boeing started in 1972 when I flew on my first passenger flight on the B737 from Delhi to Agra.

I had already decided to fly and to become an airline pilot. My eyes would forever be scouring the blues above for any planes flying high. Our school was behind the flying school, and my favorite pastime used to be admiring the small trainer planes flying in and out of this airport.

When I was in 8th grade, I was deeply engrossed in watching the circuit landings in the reflections on the window pane during an algebra class. Imagine my horror on being rudely awakened from my reverie when a piece of chalk landed on my shoulder. The math teacher's question seemed to create multiple echoes coming from a distance that seemed light years away. "You'll get a big zero," she said in sheer frustration.

I was too young to start flying at 15, so I learned aeromodeling and then gliding. At 17, I joined the flight school, and at 20, I had landed myself my dream job as an airline pilot.

On Dec. 12, 1989, I was endorsed as a 737 captain, and a few days later I received official notice from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots that at 26 years old, I was the youngest woman jet captain in the world to fly for an airline.

Jan. 1, 1990, was my first day as a brand-new captain. We were on the first leg of a flight from Bombay to Delhi. Soon after takeoff, I heard a "congratulations." The co-pilot muttered a thank you. After a little while there was another "congratulations for your first flight" on the radio, but before I could respond, the co-pilot once again accepted the wishes.

By now, I was all charged up to grab the mike and was ready in anticipation. No sooner did I hear it for the third time, I quipped, "Wait, it's for me." Imagine my utter bewilderment when he retorted, "No, it's my first flight today as co-pilot." It dawned on us that it was a first flight for us both.

Finally, we wished each other well and had a hearty laugh. Those were the days in the early nineties when there wasn't much monitoring or in-flight surveillance.

Years have passed, and it was a sheer coincidence that on the 12th of December 2012, exactly 23 years after the B737, I was endorsed as a captain on the B787 Dreamliner. Indeed, a golden dream.

My husband, son and daughter are all airline pilots, three on the Boeing 787 and 777.

As a TRI (Type Rating Instructor) on the B787, I now try and teach a bit of what I've learned in my three decades of airline flying and try to help others realize their dreams.

At 26, Nivedita Bhasin became the youngest woman jet captain to fly for an airline.

Anupma Kohli