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My passion for flying and soaring high was inspired by my school’s anthem, says this Boeing 737 pilot and Apeejay alumna

Apeejay School Panchsheel Park alumna Captain Anushree Varma is part of an elite club of women pilots in the country and now, as Chief of Flight Safety for SpiceJet, she is soaring even higher

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She can be a role model for girls who let their ambitions soar and chase their personal and professional dreams. In love with the idea of flying since she was a child, Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park alumna Captain Anushree Varma is part of the hallowed club of women Boeing 737 pilots in the country. Not just has she experienced the high of being a pilot-in-command of a sophisticated flying machine that needs refined pilot skills, she has since commanded new heights by being appointed the Chief of Flight Safety with SpiceJet, responsible for ensuring that there are no deviations from aviation norms and intervening before they manifest themselves into incidents or accidents.

Captain Varma recently received an award from Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia, Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Government of India, for her “Significant contribution in Civil Aviation.”
In a wide-ranging interview, she discusses her passion for flying, fond memories of being the headgirl at Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park and how the school anthem fuelled her childhood dream of soaring high over the clouds. Edited excerpts:

Please tell us about your education and professional journey so far.

I did my schooling from Apeejay School,Panchsheel Park, or as it was then known as, Apeejay School, Sheikh Sarai and completed my class 12 in 2003. I had always dreamt of becoming a pilot since I was a child. Therefore, I enrolled myself at the Sri Venkateswara College in Delhi University to pursue BSc (Honours) in Electronics to fast forward my journey in appearing for the Combined Defence Services Examination.

While I was pursuing my graduation I began interacting with a number of female Air Force pilots and realised that at that point in time, women could not enrol themselves for fighter pilot programmes. Also, female pilots could only apply for a short service commission. Therefore, I gave up the idea and started preparing for the commercial pilot licence examination.

Soon after my graduation, I cleared the Spicejet Cadet Pilot Programme and that is how my journey to become a commercial pilot started. I did my flight training from Arizona under the cadet pilot programme and started flying in the year 2010.

I was upgraded to fly as a Pilot-in-Command (PIC) in 2014. Now I train pilots how to fly and head the flight Safety Department at Spicejet. Before taking up this role, I was heading the pilot recruitment cell at Spicejet

Describe the feeling when you were the Pilot-in-Command, flying an aircraft for the first time?

It was an enthralling experience. To command a machine with more than 200 souls on board is a very challenging task. We undergo rigorous theoretical and practical training and examinations, practising various emergencies and are exposed to various challenging non-normal conditions before being given the opportunity to fly as Pilot-in Command (PIC). It turned out to be a challenging day as my first flight as PIC was in stormy and turbulent weather conditions but I was fully prepared to handle the challenging conditions.

You have a commercial pilot licence since 2010 and are a part of an elite club of women Boeing 737 pilots in the country. How intricate and challenging is flying the Boeing 737 as compared to other aircraft?

The B737 is a state-of-the-art machine and is aerodynamically a very stable aircraft to fly. It is a beautiful machine and one of the only few narrow body aircrafts which require detailed pilot inputs and skills to fly. The Boeing 737 NG is not a fly-by-wire aircraft wherein the system inputs are more pronounced than the pilot inputs.

It is a very balanced machine that requires understanding and implementation of advanced technology and application of refined pilot skills.

As Chief of Flight Safety, SpiceJet, what do your responsibilities entail?

My main responsibility as Chief of Flight Safety is to undertake regular, consistent, proactive and preventive measures in the entire organisation to prevent any serious incident/accident. The objective is to identify the deviation from laid down procedures, unsafe acts, practices and intervene before they manifest themselves into incidents or accidents.

You are married to another Boeing pilot? What are its positives and drawbacks if any?

Since it is a niche profession, being married to a management pilot helps a lot in understanding each other’s challenges. We can relate to each other a lot better and understand each other’s professional requirements very well. But on the other side, with both of us being in the management, paucity of time is a definite drawback.

What are your memories of studying at Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park?

I won’t be able to express my answer in a few words. I was a part of Apeejay group for 14 years (from Nursery to Class 12) and have countless memorable moments.

Soaring High is My Nature’ was the school anthem which played a vital role in me getting inclined to fly. I am still in touch with a few of my teachers and friends and do visit the school campus after having completed school almost 20 years ago. Apeejay has always focused on all-round development rather than just education and during my school years, not many schools did that. We were always encouraged to take part in multiple school activities apart from a strict study regime and it was always fun. I was the head girl of my school and my school is definitely to be credited a great deal towards what I have achieved so far.

Which are the life lessons that you picked up in school that have helped you subsequently?

Respecting others and self-respect is one of the most valuable life lessons I learnt from school. The spirit of teamwork and the value of sharing was something we were made to focus on from the beginning. Irrespective of having varied backgrounds, how to mingle with each other and adjust with different personalities as one dealt with many co-students of different sections has helped me a great deal in understanding resource management.


“My main responsibility as chief of flight safety is to undertake regular, consistent, proactive and preventive measures in the entire organisation to prevent any serious incident/accident .The objective is to identify the deviation from laid down procedures, unsafe acts, practices and intervene before they manifest themselves into incidents or accidents.”

Captain Anushree Varma, Chief of Flight Safety  and Safety Manager, Flight Safety,

SpiceJet Ltd.         

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected] He tweets @Aasheesh74

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