Meet Aarohi Pandit and Keithair Misquitta, the first women in the world to fly a Light Sport Aircraft from India to Greenland
Pandit and Misquitta are the first civilian women pilots to circumnavigate the globe and have flown to 17 countries with 27 stops over a span of 51 days
Two young women in their tiny plane landed onto a runway at Karachi a few weeks ago, becoming the first women civilian pilots in India to undertake a circumnavigation of the globe in a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA). Captains Aarohi Pandit (22) and Keithair Misquitta (22) flew to Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Slovenia, Serbia, Germany, France, and the UK, then over the Atlantic to Greenland and Iceland with their 'leading lady,' Mahi, the aircraft. They're now on a winter break, waiting for the weather to clear.
Not only are Mumbai-based Pandit and Misquitta the first Indian women to go on such an adventure, they are also the only women who hold a license to charter LSA flights in India. They've flown to c with 27 stops over a span of 51 days.
One leg of the expedition that included flying over Greenland and Iceland was accomplished by Pandit alone. She describes her journey as being thoroughly beautiful, and while it did get lonely without her co-pilot and friend, she says it was an amazing experience to see the hues of blue up in the sky and down below, in the deep waters of the Atlantic.
The duo was roped in for the expedition by Social Access Communication, while Nexus Operations' Sadaf Herekar looked after international permits, ground clearances, hotel bookings and every other documentation process.
Herekar says that her team has to work round the clock as there is a lot of pre-planning involved in an expedition of this nature. One needs permission to pass through every country, and for this the team has to deal with authorities like the Indian High Commission and Civil Aviation for airport clearances. Weather forecasts and flight plans have to be chalked out at least a week before take-off, and Herekar has two teams at Nexus for these tasks — the dispatch team which takes care of the flying aspect and another which looks after the weather. She says that it was easier to get permits because the cause was such that whoever they approached welcomed them with great warmth.
This expedition, known as the Women Empower or The WE! Expedition, is mentored by Captain Rahul Monga who has created a world record for the fastest circumnavigation in a microlight aircraft by flying around the Earth in 80 days.
Lynn de Souza from Social Access says, "When you are looking for a metaphor for liberation, there is actually nothing more powerful than the ability to fly." According to her, people talk about health, nutrition and education to make life better for women, but through this expedition, Social Access aimed to achieve something that reaches a different altitude altogether. "We don't have a glass ceiling to break, we just break free," she says.
Pandit and Misquitta will kick off the second leg of their expedition as soon as the weather clears. Their bags, one each, are all packed and ready to take off at the first indication of clear skies. With one pair of shoes, one pair of jeans, one shirt and a flight suit, the two girls are on the edge of their seats, waiting for the next phase of their incredible adventure to begin.
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A subsequent solo circumnavigation of the globe by a lady officer is also planned.