Last week, Pakistan International Airlines wonder women Captain Maryam Masood and First Officer Shumaila Mazhar made history as they became the first female crew to land a plane in Gilgit.
The duo’s success went viral on social media as the Islamabad-to-Gilgit flight is said to be “very challenging and requires a lot of precision and technique.”
In a recent interaction with PIA, both the pilots spoke about their experience and their journey towards their achievement.
Captain Maryam Masood shared, “I was on my way to becoming a doctor, I think my father wanted that as well, but sometime during the FSc, I don’t know what happened but I just went up to my father and told him I want to fly. He was taken aback, saying ‘I thought you wanted to be a doctor, you’re so young!’ It took him some time to take me seriously but he was able to understand how passionate I was about this.”
Shumaila Mazhar, on the other hand said that she “always wanted to become a pilot” and “never thought of anything else in my life.”
“My cousin made model planes and would fly them at Seaview and I would tag along just to look at them in the air. One time I said ‘I want to fly them’ and cousin just said ‘Why not? You can.’ That was all the motivation I needed. My family was just as taken aback as Maryam’s. It took me a year but I convinced them and now they support me more than anything.”
She added, “We’re glad we had support not just from our families but from PIA. We weren’t afraid or nervous at all. Even during this Gilgit flight. It’s part of our training to stay very calm despite the conditions.”
Speaking about their career’s psychological hurdles, Maryam said, “Yes, it can get challenging but we’re never afraid. We don’t just fly over the mountains, we fly through them without any fear. That’s a requirement for being a pilot, but it’s still such a good feeling every time we successfully land a plane. It’s a sense of achievement and that overpowers the fear every time.”
On the topic of women empowerment, Maryam remarked, “There are barely any fields in Pakistan where there are no women. I myself was the fourth woman to join PIA but even when we’re few we’re there. The three women senior to me had their share of difficulty and paved the way for me. And I want to carry that on and improve whatever they did and hope women after me will do the same.”
She added about being a pilot, “It’s a very safe and decent profession and the overall response has been so wonderful and it’s always like this. Whenever people find out the pilot is a woman they get excited and want to meet.”
Maryam revealed that this excitement over a Pakistani female pilot is not restricted to Pakistan alone but abroad as well. “Even flying planes to America and Paris, we’d see the people over there be even more stunned than people here. They were very excited and impressed that Pakistan has female pilots.”