SOAR­ING HIGH

Mum­bai pi­lots Aarohi Pan­dit and Kei­thair Misquitta are set to cre­ate a record by cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing the earth in an ul­tra­light plane

India Today - - OFFBEAT - BY ADITI PAI

As stu­dents at the Bom­bay Fly­ing Club, Aarohi Pan­dit, 22 and Kei­thair Misquitta, 24 flew over Mum­bai’s Ara­bian Sea sev­eral times but soar­ing across the tur­bu­lent North At­lantic Ocean in a mo­tor glider was an ex­pe­ri­ence they hadn’t pre­pared for. “The weather changed ev­ery one hour, it was so un­pre­dictable,” says Pan­dit, who is the first In­dian woman to fly solo across the At­lantic Ocean. They have be­come the first two women pi­lots to fly from In­dia to Green­land in a light sports air­craft, and in this case, while fly­ing solo over the North At­lantic Ocean, Pan­dit had only her life raft and emer­gency equip­ment for com­pany. “That was the most chal­leng­ing part

be­cause un­til then we had flown to­gether,” she says. In Au­gust, they set off on an ex­pe­di­tion to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the earth in a light mo­tor glider as part of the WE! Women Em­power Ex­pe­di­tion. In 51 days, they did 27 land­ings in 17 dif­fer­ent coun­tries and flew 12,000 nau­ti­cal miles bat­tling weather, dif­fi­cult ter­rains and per­mis­sions.

The jour­ney from In­dia to Scot­land via Karachi and Iran threw up sev­eral chal­lenges and nu­mer­ous firsts. They cre­ated a record by land­ing a light sport air­craft from In­dia in Karachi, fly­ing over high moun­tain peaks and rough weather over oceans. If Iran came with tough ter­rain and 9,000 ft high moun­tain ranges, the At­lantic Ocean was the big­gest chal­lenge. “Over land, you at least have a land­mark but over wa­ter, there is none,” says Pan­dit. What off­set the chal­lenges was the warmth that peo­ple show­ered on them in ev­ery coun­try.

Their air­craft Mahi, which stands for planet earth in San­skrit, is the only LSA (light sport air­craft) reg­is­tered in In­dia and is a Si­nus 912 which was orig­i­nally used by Slove­nian pi­lot Mat­evž Le­nar­cic for the first solo cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion in an ul­tra­light plane.

Misquitta says that con­vinc­ing their fam­i­lies wasn’t easy but see­ing their ex­cite­ment of mak­ing a new record, they re­lented. “Some legs of the jour­ney were chal­leng­ing. There were days when we took off and re­turned be­cause it was rain­ing heav­ily along our route,” she says. From east­ern Eu­rope, the pi­lots flew to Eng­land, Scot­land and Green­land but had to park in Ice­land. With the win­ter set­ting in early this year, their ex­pe­di­tion is on hold for now. As soon as the sun comes out, they will be off to com­plete the next leg of the jour­ney around the world.

Kei­thair Misquitta (left) and Aarohi Pan­dit (above); air­craft Mahi (be­low left)

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