01 Aug 2018
Air India airhostess proudly retires as daughter co-pilots last flight
Written byGogona SaikiaIndia
To retire as proudly as Mumbai-based Pooja Chinchankar did would be everyone's dream.
Pooja, 58, had her last flight as an Air India (AI) airhostess yesterday. It was her daughter Ashrrita, 31, who co-piloted the Mumbai-Bengaluru-Mumbai flight.
For this, Ashrrita had to put in a special request, but she did it to fulfil her mother's long-awaited dream.
Ashrrita changed track midway to become a pilot
Pooja joined AI in December 1980. While deciding her career, daughter Ashrrita had decided to take up mass media.
One day, Pooja "casually" asked her if she wanted to fly, she told HT. "To our surprise, she was prepared to go for the course in two days."
Demand for pilots was also high then as SpiceJet, IndiGo, Kingfisher and others had just started operations.
After eight long years, she finally joined Air India
By the time Ashrrita returned from Canada after earning a commercial pilot license in 2008, the recession had begun.
She had to struggle to keep her license valid.
But by 2016, she had received offers from many airlines, Pooja said. She chose AI and joined the A320 fleet.
This was when Pooja told her daughter about her dream of flying the last flight together.
'Mother called me Captain, it was strange'
Since then, the mother-daughter have made flights together. It was a wonderful experience for both, but professional too. "She knew exactly what I like, but she'd come to the cockpit and ask whether I wanted tea or coffee, with or without sugar. She'd call me 'captain'," Ashrrita recalled.
Ashrrita's tweets on Pooja's last day have gone viral
Ashrrita kept the last flight's arrangement a surprise. Pooja found out they were flying together only when she arrived at the airport.
Shortly before Flight-AI604 was to land, Captain Paresh Nerurkar announced the occasion on the passenger announcement system.
Pooja then walked down the aisle to cheers and applause.
Ashrrita shared photos and videos, which were 'liked' by former Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel.
Pooja walks down the aisle one last time
For all of you who asked :) that’s mom on her last flight as an operating cabin crew for @airindiain what a lovely day and what amazing passengers! So many best wishes and hugs ♥️ of course I was in the flight deck :) #proud #grateful pic.twitter.com/eUL3Og4EBr— Ashrrita (@caramelwings) July 31, 2018
From airhostesses to pilots, Indian women have come long
As she ended her journey, Pooja emotionally recalled how the aviation industry had changed over the years.
"During our time it was 'abnormal' for a woman to become a pilot....There are equal opportunities for women now."
Seema Verma, Dean of Aviation at Jaipur's Banasthali Vidyapith, concurs. "Earlier, our program had a maximum 10 girls every year. This year, we have 35 students choosing B.Sc Aviation."