Kashmir’s First Lady Pilot: Set the Record Right

In 1994, she became the first Muslim woman of the country to have a CPL. The hallmark of her achievement was that she belonged to the valley of Kashmir where people knew nothing about such opportunities in the world.
File Photo
File Photo

This is in response to A report in The Times of India, dated August, 31, 2018, that says "Thirty year old Iram Habib has become the first Kashmiri Muslim woman to become a pilot. She will join Go Air next month."  Before declaring Iram Habib as the first Kashmiri Muslim woman pilot, the reporter should have collected all information and data of Kashmiri Muslim women pilots, which has not been done. Iram Habib is the daughter of the soil and the Kashmiri nation should feel proud of such talented and ambitious girls who have proved their worth at the national and International level. 

However, the fact is that the  First Kashmiri Woman Pilot is Sami Ara (Surury) who was born in a Kashmiri Muslim family at Sumbal Sonawari. She has four sisters and no brother, and as Sami remarks that "My parents invariably wished that a son could take birth in their family." Sami believes that her parents particularly, her father Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Bhat, missed the absence of a son.

She received her primary education at Sumbal and then passed her 9th and 10th from a Boys School. Studying along with the boys made her stronger and ignited her courage, determination and enhanced her passion to do something extra ordinary in life. She always wanted to be ahead of all boys and her aim at that time was to beat them all in academics and other activities. After passing 10th class she went to Govt Higher Secondary School, Hajin. Her parents wished her to be a doctor and even though she appeared in the MBBS examination she was destined for something else. 

Her parents had not enough resources to admit her for M.B.B.S in any private medical college. She moved to Srinagar and continued her studies at Women's College M.A Road. After graduation in 1987, she began to prepare for UPSC examination but left the idea half way.

Due to poor economic conditions at home, she decided to work with Vaishali enterprises, at Srinagar, where she issued airline tickets. Some airline official visited her office and informed about Indian airlines hiring a lot of crew for newly acquired A320.

She submitted her application for cabin crew job. She sailed through, it was like a cake walk for her. It was a testing time for a Kashmiri girl in 1989 when the  turbulence had emerged in the valley.

She just felt her experience of appointment with Indian airlines which was a God's gift. She moved out to Mumbai which was an entirely new world for her. And there Sami came into contact with other girls from different parts of India. She tried to do best in her new endeavour, and worked zealously.

After three years of serving tea, coffee to passengers, she suddenly realised she was not born to do this rest of her life. She would see girls half her size flying planes in the air. 

She knew that her parents had a low feeling for not having a son who could do something great; therefore, she wanted to excel in life. In order to achieve more in her career, she made her  mind  to move from the Cabin to the Cockpit and went to Texas to do her Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) course on a 3 months leave from the Airline and returned with a FAA CPL in a record 90 days and converted it to an Indian CPL in 1994. In 1994,  she became the  first Muslim woman  of the country  to have a CPL. The hallmark of her achievement was that she belonged to the valley of Kashmir where people knew nothing about such opportunities in the world.   

Since there were no job openings for Pilots coming her way, she went ahead with her personal life and got married in 1996 and continued flying as an Airhostess. Her first son was born in 2002 and while she was carrying her second child Indian airlines came up with a vacancy for Pilots in which she was selected. She joined the ground training of 4 months that too when she was expecting, returned to deliver her second child and then resumed for the simulator training to be released as a Co-Pilot in 2004. She worked through the name change of Indian Airlines to Air India piling up experience and graduated to be a commander in 2009.

She is flying Airbus since then as a Kashmiri Muslim woman pilot. It  is now for her all waking up in the morning at 3 am, dawning the  uniform, breaking through clouds, climbing to troposphere, and glide down to ground zero. It is a passion which she gets paid for.  She is 48 at present, robust, smart active and mentally alert. She gets smart perks and whenever in valley on holidays, she visits schools to create awareness among the youth of Kashmir particularly the young girls, educating them that there are n-number of opportunities in the world provided they have a desire to achieve something in life.  At present she flies Indigo Airbus as an experienced and skilled Commander/ Captain.

The report needs to be corrected. Let all know that Kashmir had its First Lady Pilot way back in in 2004 in the person of Sami Ara (Sami Surury).   

It is not question of First or Second but it is question of who is the First.  

drfarooqpeer gmail.com                   

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