March 10 will be an important day in the lives of Audrey Maben and Amy Mehta. The mother-daughter duo will embark on a mission from Hyderabad to circumnavigate the Earth, covering 21 countries in 80 days.
Maben and Mehta, who were in the city recently to address the students of Hindustan International School, are undertaking this once-in-a-lifetime trip despite not flying abroad even once. “The idea is to get me out of my comfort zone,” says Maben, who is a sport pilot, “We have role models right in front of us. In fact, Wing Commander Rahul Monga earlier circumnavigated the Earth in a microlight. He’s our mentor.”
Maben sounds confident but the road ahead is full of blocks. Thankfully, she has help at hand for preparation. “We’re choosing our route carefully so that we avoid large mountains. We are trying to fly under 10,000 ft though the ceiling is till 23,000.”
She’s flying in Mahi, a motor glider that will be her best friend for the next couple of months. “I’ll be flying extensively in India before I start the mission,” says Maben, who has flown gliders since she was 15. “Somehow, I have good skills on the machine and have trained on the Sinus 912.”
Covering 21 countries is no easy task and involves several logistical issues. Maben has a big team handling all that, so that she ensures that she concentrates on the training and flying bit. “It was like a powerful force in the universe that brought us all together. There’s a big team — documents, paperwork and me — handling the logistics and paper planning. I trained in Jharkhand and became the country’s first woman to get a motor glider license.”
Armed with the license and the experience of flying on microlights — Orient Flight Aviation Academy has been aiding her — Maben is excited about her trip. She’s also excited that her daughter Amy, who is studying photography and will document the entire trip, will accompany her on the mission that will cover Bangladesh, the Philippines, Japan, Russia, Alaska in the US, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the UK, Turkey and Iran.
They’re aware of the limitations. “In any such expedition, there are three limitations: aircraft, pilot and the weather. I’m quite OCD about the machine I’m flying thankfully. As I’m an instructor, I’ve taught this all my life. Now it will be time for me to implement it.”