It’s challenging at times but we’re never scared, shares PIA’s female pilot duo

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Pakistan International Airlines’ Captain Maryam Masood and First Officer Shumaila Mazhar made waves last week as the all-female crew flew a plane from Islamabad to mountainous Gilgit and back.

A picture of the dynamic duo on board the flight went viral on social media soon after they landed.

Now, the two pilots have narrated their journey and spoken to the airline about their flight to Gilgit which in PIA’s words “is very challenging and requires a lot of precision and technique”.

Captain Maryam Masood, who was the fourth female pilot in PIA at the time she joined the national carrier, revealed she was set to become a doctor and never thought she would become a pilot.

Picture of female pilots

“I was on my way to becoming a doctor and my father wanted me to become one as well,” she said.

“But during my FSc, I lost interest and I went up to my father and told him I wanted to fly. He was taken aback and said I was so young. However, it took him some time to take me seriously but he was able to understand how passionate I was about this,” Captain Maryam Masood added.

It was no different for Shumaila Mazhar except that she “always wanted to become a pilot”.

The first officer narrated that as child she would tag along with her cousin who made model planes and would fly them at Seav View.

“This one time I told him I want to fly them and my cousin just said ‘Why not? You can’ and that was all the motivation I needed,” she said adding that her family like Maryam’s was taken aback.

But after a year of convincing, Mazhar started training.

Speaking about flights, the pilots shared that they “are never afraid or nervous”.

“We were not scared during the Gilgit flight either. It is part of our training to stay calm and we get special training to fly to mountainous regions,” they said.

Maryam added, “It is challenging at times but we are never scared. We do not just fly over the mountains, we fly through them without any fear.”

“It is such a good feeling every time we successfully land a plane and the sense of achievement overpowers fear and everything else each time,” she continued.

Speaking about their photo going viral, Maryam said. “There are hardly any fields in Pakistan where there are no women.”

“I was the the fourth woman to join PIA and the three seniors before me faced difficulties and carved the way for me,” she shared.

Maryam expressed hope to do the same for other female pilots. “I want to carry that on and improve whatever they did and hope others after me will do the same.”

The two pilots further revealed, “It is a very safe and respectable profession.”

“People always acknowledge you and respect you,” Maryam said.

“Whenever people find out the pilot is a woman they get excited and want to meet you,” she added.

The captain further said it’s not only Pakistanis who get excited when they find out that a female pilot is flying but people worldwide as well.

“When I fly to Paris and America as well, I have seen people get excited over there too. They get excited not because they are not used to seeing female pilots but because they are shocked to find out that Pakistan also has female pilots,” she said.

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