Flying in an aircraft may be care-free and relaxing for a passenger but certainly not for an airline pilot. Being a pilot, the person has to look after so many factors considering safety and requires constant maneuvering of the aircraft on a fixed schedule which consists many hours performing different tasks while flying including checking the weather and confirming flight plans before departing. A pilot must have an ability to understand technical information, as pilots need to know how their aircraft works with excellent spatial awareness and coordination. A pilot not only needs to know the technical terms but must be aware and be conscious about the surrounding factors too. Sky Diary team interviewed one of the most experienced lady pilot of Nepal or let us say the only Nepali women in aviation who dared flying the jet engine aircraft, Bombardier CRJ-200, Capt. Bhawana Panta Giri.
1) What inspired you to become a pilot?
I never thought of flying as a kid but I was always fond of the way my father dressed up before he left home for his job as a pilot. Watching him getting prepared for flying gave me thrills and I even dreamt of wearing uniforms. Even though these things inspired me I never thought of flying as a pilot in future but later after I gave my SLC exams, my dad asked me if I would like to go flying and at that time, I had a thought of doing engineering as I loved sketching and painting. But after my dad approached me with that question, I completely changed my mind, I realized I could become like my dad too, and gave him an instant positive answer and finally went for the pilot training.
2) When and where did you pursue your pilot training?
I did my pilot training in 1994 and at that time, Russia was quite a renowned place for flying, so I went to Russia. After I returned, I joined my ISC and studied three years which was quite exciting and I still recall my College life.
3) What airlines have you worked with till now and have you flown except Nepal as a pilot?
After I completed my ISC, I joined Necon Air which was the first private airlines of Nepal in 1997. I flew with Necon air till 2002 and then joined Buddha Air. I have flown to Patna, India while I was in Necon airlines and I also flew to Lucknow and Banaras after I joined Buddha in 2002. I then joined Saurya Airlines flying Jets. I enjoyed flying back then when there were lesser things to worry about unlike we have these days.
4) When did you become a Captain?
I became Captain in 2006 while I was working with Buddha Air. At that time I flew Beechcraft 1900 C’s and 1900Ds.
5) Now being a Chief Captain of Saurya Airlines, what are your responsibilities towards the airlines, do you manage your juniors or aircrafts or anything like that?
I do have some important responsibilities and regarding management, I will have to manage my cabin crew and my pilots during the job but except that we conduct different programs in the Airlines which I look after and make sure everyone is doing their job the right way.
6) What are the other interests you have except painting?
Other than painting, I love travelling and since I’m a pilot, I have covered it quite well. (Laughs)
7) Have you ever faced any difficulties or have you had any incidents while flying aircraft?
Weather is always a challenge and since Nepal is a mountainous country full of Hills and mountains, you should always be cautious while flying near the mountains. But I haven’t faced any technical problems in my career so far.
8) In your view, how does the future of Nepalese aviation look like?
Nepalese aviation has progressed far more than it was back then as new fleets and Airlines are making its way towards progression. There’s a lot of scope but use of technology is still lacking in Airports which result in lots of fatal accidents usually in the remote areas. Even in the only international airport of Nepal, we do not have instrument landing system (ILS) which helps aircraft to guide itself during low visibility conditions. Traffic congestion is another problem here, we have to hold for even an hour sometimes because of less number of routes and parking bays in TIA. So if these things are managed, the future is bright.
9) As a women pilot in Nepal, have you faced any difficulties while flying?
I was the third lady pilot back then when I took my license after Sony Rana and Rakshya Rana and even in that time, I didn’t face any difficulties being a female pilot but rather I have gained respect and I have become a source of inspiration to other women. No one has ever under-estimated me in that way but other things that I would like to include is that, because of the poor hygiene and sanitation at the airports, not only pilots but other females have a lot of problem. There are no enough rest rooms keeping in mind that TIA is an International airport, and even those that exist have not been maintained and kept sanitized. So these would be the only problem for female pilots flying in Nepal, not other things.
10) What would you like to say to other females who want to become a pilot in future?
I would like to say that there’s a lot of scope right now in Nepal. There’s nothing to worry about as there are lots of female pilots flying now. You just gotta have interest about aviation before you come into this field. If you enjoy flying, then you do not even feel like you are doing a job, you fly, travel and earn. So what’s better than that?