In a world where roughly 95 percent of pilots are men, 30-year old Anny Diyva, a full-time pilot for Air India, is boldly flying in the face of stereotypes.
The youngest woman to ever command a Boeing 777, Diyva, says that her journey to the high skies was not without struggle. “I had my share of success and failures," Divya tells SWAAY in an exclusive interview. “As one of the youngest women in this industry from the time I came into aviation, I had to overcome preconceived notions and build trust and confidence amongst my peers through grit, hard work and patience."
Divya faced tough opposition from the people around her, which even made her parents re-think their decision of enrolling her into flight school (which they did anyway) for a time. After becoming a certified pilot and earning her four-yellow-striped epaulette at the age of 19, Divya has become an inspiration for many young women looking to earn their wings.
“In my small town of Vijaywada in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, with no aviation school and no knowledge of becoming a pilot, I have faced and been through plenty of challenges; language barriers, cultural differences, financial issues, no knowledge of aviation and even my sense of fashion to name few," she says. “ Initially, I used to feel bad and I also was very timid but soon I overcame those with the support of family, my teachers who helped me to recognize my strengths and most importantly my determination to succeed which helped me to focus on what was wrong and how to correct the mistakes. By the time I finished my training, I was completely transformed and got the job immediately.
Here, SWAAY asks Divya more about her uncommon path to greatness in the sky.
1. Where were you born? What kind of child were you?
I was born in Pathankot in state of Punjab (India) . I was very naughty as a child, I know from many childhood stories I heard about myself which I remember very faintly.
2. Do you have any influences as a young girl that you think helped you find the aviation industry?
Not as such for the aviation industry, but I think my first teacher, my mother, has built confidence in me which helped me dream without any obligations, for every small thing I did she encouraged me and reminding me that I'm capable of doing very well.
3. You entered flight school at age 17, how was that? Were you accepted by the men around you?
4. How many flights do you do per day/week/month? What is a typical day like of a female Air India pilot?
Air India has been my dream job, it's given me a platform to be where I am today. It's a very professional airline to work with, I enjoy working with AirIndia. I mostly do ultra long haul flights, which are 14 to 16 hours long , five flights about 70 to 80 hours a month. Since I mostly do international flights, I have three kinds of days:
5. Can you share your short-term and long-term goals?
6. It seems that flying a plane is part technical, part mental. How do you put yourself in the headspace to fly such big planes?
There is a lot of training that goes into this. Many many years and man-hours are spent training, learning, testing and conditioning your mind and your body for it to become second nature to you.
7. How do you maintain a social life with so much running around? What do you do for fun?
8. What are your favorite cities to travel to? Do you get time to explore different countries/cities?
I absolutely love traveling and exploring new cities and I absolutely love love New York. It's my favorite city but I also like Paris, London, Frankfurt and Chicago. I live in Mumbai because of my job but my home is where my parents live - Vijayawada in the state of Andhra Pradesh (India). And when I am traveling on work then it's hotels that my airline puts me up in.
9. What is the reaction when passengers realize you were the pilot? Are they surprised?
They are quite pleasantly surprised. They don't expect the pilot to be so young. And when they realize that I am the commander, their expressions are quite amusing, they are kind of awestruck. It's like I can almost hear them saying 'Wow was she our commander?" Sometimes some people reach out to shake my hand. It's quite humbling actually.
10. What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a career like yours. Also, do you have a life philosophy?
WRITTEN BYBelisa Silva