It is a remarkable distinction and it was not easy to achieve. However, it was this determination together with perseverance, focus and sheer hard work that made Syeda Salva Fatima reach where she has today.
Syeda Salva Fatima,
Growing up in an economically challenged and crowded neighbourhood in the Old City of Hyderabad, as the daughter of a bakery-counter salesman it was a long and hard climb for Salva.
She studied in Neo School Aizza in Malakpet where she was good in academics and an active participant in extra-curricular activities and games. Next, she joined St Ann's Junior College, Mehdipatnam, for her Intermediate.
Salva went on to appear for her EAMCET exams at her parents’ insistence. “I secured a good rank and so received a seat in engineering, but I did not join that course."
In 2007, after gathering information on the best place to fulfil her dream, she enrolled in the Andhra Pradesh Aviation Academy (now renamed Telangana State Aviation Academy) where she flew for the first time. "It was amazing experience. I had not even flown in an aircraft as a passenger till then, so this was a big thrill!"
By 2013, she had successfully completed her training, logging 200 hours of flying aircraft like the Cessna 152 and Cessna 172, including around 120 hours of solo flight.
Salva reveals that it was a tough journey. "There were people who said I was taking on too much and I would not make it. There were others who told me that I was a woman and I would get married and become a homemaker and so all this ambition and efforts were quite futile. However, I persevered and believed in myself and my dream. Most importantly, I had encouragement from my parents and from philanthropists like Zahid Ali Khan, editor of a leading Urdu daily, Siasat."
In March 2013, Salva obtained a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), a Private Pilot Licence and Flight Radio Telephone Operator Licence. This was the year in which she also got married, to Md Shakaib in October 2013. "Even my husband is supportive," she says.
However, she learnt that the CPL is not enough to get a pilot's job in an airline, and one has to undergo training called Multi-engine Rating as well as Type Rating to be able to fly larger aircraft like the Airbus A-320.
Later, she undertook Multi-engine Rating Training in New Zealand and Type-Rating in Bahrain. This was enabled with the sponsorship of the Government of Telangana with Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao taking interest in her case. She also received endorsement from the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) which makes her eligible to fly the Airbus A-320.
Currently, Salva is waiting to join an airline as a First Officer which means a regular commercial pilot job.
Says Salva: "Now I dream of travelling to every corner of the world and enjoying sightseeing in each place. I am also a foodie and enjoy both cooking and sampling different cuisines. I love mingling with friends and attending family functions. I also want to help underprivileged women receive education and I have been appointed Brand Ambassador for Women Empowerment organisation based in Mumbai.
I have also been invited to many institutions to give motivational speeches to students, especially girls." What is her advice to the younger generation, particularly other girls: “Where there is a will, there is a way- that is my motto. Work hard, don't give up on your dream.
There will always be setbacks and difficulties but don’t let them deter you. And when you succeed, the more you rise, the more down to earth you should be.”