She looks the typical Muslim woman next door – plain, timid and hesitant. It will be a surprise if she can drive a four-wheeler. Hold your breath – she can even fly an aircraft. Meet Capt. Syeda Salva Fatima, the only Muslim woman in India to hold the commercial pilot’s licence.
She is the shining example of Muslim women’s empowerment. What makes her ascent interesting is that she hails from the poverty-stricken old city of Hyderabad where life is a continuous struggle. Even more surprising is her decision to step into a domain which is predominantly male. But her black burqa and red scarf doesn’t betray her accomplishments.
Right from her school days, Fatima used to collect newspaper articles about aviation and pour over pictures of aircraft for hours. Her father, Syed Ashfaq Ahmed, a bakery worker, never imagined that his daughter would become a pilot one day. The dice was cast when she took admission in an institute which offered free EAMCET coaching. “What would you like to become,” the instructor asked. Pat came the reply, “Pilot”. It was a pleasant surprise to everyone present, more so to her father who struggled to make the ends meet. Seeing her determination, Zahid Ali Khan, Editor, Siasat daily, who was present at the time, asked Fatima to meet him later. “I couldn’t believe my ears when he offered to support me financially to undertake the pilot training,” recalls an overwhelmed Fatima.
After five years of rigorous training at the Andhra Pradesh Aviation Academy, Fatima obtained Commercial Pilot’s Licence, Private Pilot’s Licence and Flight Radio Telephone Operator Licence on March 11, 2013. She has logged in a total of 200 hours of flying on Cessna 152 and172, including 123 hours of solo flight. Now she has hit a rough weather. She needs to undergo Type Rating, an additional training beyond the scope of the initial licence and aircraft class training, on Air Bus A-320 or Boeing to be able to fly any aircraft. The training costs about Rs. 30 lakh which the 26-year-old couldn’t think of. But having come this far, she doesn’t want to give up. The Captain courageous has sent an SOS to the Civil Aviation Minister, Ashok Gajapathi Raju. She can be reached on: 9966073368.
Capt. Fatima, the only Muslim woman in India to hold a commercial pilot’s licence, needs financial help for additional training