Power of women..Indian pilot, daughter will glide around the world

Bengaluru, Dec 1  Mysuru-based flying instructor and ace pilot Captain Audrey Deepika Maben along with her 19-year-old daughter will soon be gliding around the planet covering 21 countries in a span of 80 days.

In a brand new Pipistrel Sinus 912, a single-engine two-seater light motor glider developed by Slovenian light aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel, Captain Maben and daughter Amy Mehta would be covering around 50,000km around the globe, in the expedition that will take off in February 2018.

"This expedition will give wings to many more girls who dream of flying everyday as my daughter and I will be speaking to women and girls from across the countries about flying. We want many more women to take up flying," Maben said.

Maben, 42, took to the skies at the age of 15 as a National Cadet Corps (NCC) member in Bengaluru's Baldwin Girls' High School.

She later enrolled in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur gliding centre and obtained her Glider Pilot License and then a Microlight Pilot License (permit required to fly one-or-two-seater aircraft weighing less than 450kg) -- all before she turned 22.

Beginning their circumnavigation around the earth in February from New Delhi, the duo will fly eastwards towards Japan, Russia, North America, Greenland, Europe, Middle East and then back to India, stopping in about 21 countries along the way.

The light aircraft can reach a maximum altitude of up to 7,500 feet above sea level. It has a fuel capacity of 60 litres, which makes it necessary to make multiple stops for refuelling for a major exercise like this one.

"The motor glider requires good winds to fly. And since I don't have the required license for night flying, we will be flying only during the day time for about five to six hours each day, and then we'd land in one of the countries along our route map to refuel and rest," Maben stated.

Throughout the trip, Mehta, a photography student, would be digitally documenting the views from the skies and helping Maben with navigation.

"I will also be spreading the word about our journey on social media that will help us reach out to women and men across the world," said Mehta.

The expedition will be a "milestone" to show that women can equally reach great heights, said Moses Chalai, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, which is supporting the mission. 

Maben is currently undergoing flight training in Mysuru Airport as well as taking physical training to withstand the long flying hours.

There have been similar attempts earlier to circumnavigate the earth. An English pilot Colin Bodill had done the first solo expedition in a microlight aircraft around the planet in 99 days in 2000.

Later, a team from the Indian Air Force, Rahul Monga and Anil Kumar, had accomplished circumnavigation in a microlight in 79 days in 2007. They had covered 40,529km around the world.