Published: 15th March 2019
Why every aspiring woman pilot should look up to Anny Divya, the world's youngest woman Boeing 777 pilot
When she was 21, she first got to try her hand at flying the world's largest twin-engine passenger jet, the Boeing 777. Today, she's a beacon for every woman who's wanted to be a pilot
Every kid dreams of being a pilot. Some people will tell you that they were born to be doctors or engineers or theoretical physicists even, but for most of them flying may have been that out-of-reach pipe dream that never came to be.
Unless you're Anny Divya. Captain Anny Divya.
And it's one of those love stories that started awfully early, "From a very young age when I used to look up at the sky, I always wanted to touch it and fly through the clouds. Other children used to make fun of me for this as at that time children were pushed by their parents and relatives to become engineers, doctors, and teachers. But it was only after my mother said I should become a pilot that I started to dream of becoming one." she recalls happily.
Currently based in Mumbai, the world's youngest woman to captain a Boeing 777 — the largest commercial twin-jet plane to fly the skies — she had always dreamt of becoming a pilot. Unsurprisingly, she got her wings when she was just 19.
With a plane-load of sheer grit and dedication, it is no surprise to anyone who's met her that she has made it. "Staying out of your comfort zone away from your parents at the age of 17, and facing the unexpected new challenges of life was a new beginning. In my initial training days, I faced cultural challenges and language barriers which I overcame with the support of my family and my determination to learn new things. If you build courage and be connected to your roots, it will always guide you to overcome challenges in the right manner. I have always believed that it’s okay not to know, but it’s not okay to not learn," says the young pilot.
From a very young age when I used to look up at the sky, I always wanted to touch it and fly through the clouds. Other children used to make fun of me for this as at that time children were pushed by their parents and relatives to become engineers, doctors, and teachers. But it was only after my mother said I should become a pilot that I started to dream of becoming one
Anny Divya, youngest female pilot to captain Boeing 777 (Pic: Anny)
A lot of people assume that when you're a pilot, you probably had a rich dad who bought your way through flight school.
If you think it was that easy for her then you're wrong. Although she came from an army background, her journey to the skies was definitely not a stroll in the park for her. While she had immense support from her parents, dissent often cropped up throughout in the form of others in the family, friends and relatives.
After her father, Anne Murahari, took voluntary retirement, their family moved to Vijayawada, where Anny did her schooling. Anny was born to a lower-middle class family and they had their share of financial shortcomings. Since she grew up in Vijayawada and was born in a humble home, she did her schooling at a school that taught in her mother tongue Telugu, so learning English and being fluent at it was a major difficulty she faced in her early years.
Her parents have been her rock though, "They are very very proud. They constantly supported me through every phase without any expectation. For them it was not about me succeeding or failing, they have been my pillars irrespective of anything — throughout my childhood. My mother told me that I could always come back home to them if I failed, but I should always remember that we will face challenges wherever we go. My parents had said that they were there for me no matter what, so I should choose anything I wanted to do wisely. My family's support has always given me immense strength," she adds.
To the skies: Anny started learning to fly planes at the age of 17 years and in two years at just 19 she received her license and was employed with Air India (Pic: Anny)
Post her school education, the 17-year-old made her mark by getting into the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA), one of the premier flying schools in the country. She started learning to fly aircrafts at the same age and in two years, she received her flying license and landed a job with Air India. At the age of only 21, Anny got to fly the Boeing 777 for the first time and at 30, she became a commander on a Boeing 777 flight from Riyadh to Mumbai. This was a huge step up from the Boeing 737 that Anny had kickstarted her flying career with.
Somehow, it seemed like the 777 and her had this indelible chemistry, "When I was 21, I was sent to London for further training. It was then when I started to fly the Boeing 777. Since then, my life has changed for the better. It’s been a wonderful experience so far. I have got the opportunity to travel to various countries. I am very thankful to my airline for giving me the opportunity to gain experience in airline flying to enable me to become a Boeing 777 commander. It feels amazing. My journey so far has taught me a lot too," Anny added.
Inspiring all: Anny became a LinkedIn global influencer this year. LinkedIn's influencer programme hosts over 500 global leaders, thinkers and innovators like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, and actor Priyanka Chopra
Most women pilots and there are a fair few these days, settle for smaller, easier planes on shorter routes. Not always by choice, mind you. Anny somehow believes that the barriers that women pilots face with the glass ceiling et al, are a lot like how women face similar hardships or stereotypes in any other profession. "Yes, as women we face different kind of challenges at work in aviation but these challenges are same as for women in any other professions like doctors, engineers etc. Especially in those jobs that involve travelling. So it was important to stay focused. A sense of professionalism helped me stay focused. Although this profession has always been male-dominated the perception that this profession is not for women has already changed to a large extent. As a matter of fact, I am proud to say India has taken the lead over the rest of the world, including developed countries. Here in India, women flying as airline pilots are approximately 14 per cent, compared to the global average of approximately 4 per cent," she concludes.