NEW DELHI: Breaking the glass ceiling of Indian aviation, a woman has become the CEO of an Indian carrier for the first time, with the government appointing Harpreet A De Singh to the top position for Air India’s (AI) regional subsidiary Alliance Air. Singh is currently AI’s executive director (flight safety). Captain Nivedita Bhasin, one of AI’s most senior commanders currently flying Boeing 787 Dreamliner, will be the new ED (flight safety) in place of Singh.
AI CMD Rajiv Bansal issued an order on Friday, saying Singh “will hold the charge of Alliance Air CEO post till further orders.” Captain Nivedita Bhasin has also been asked to head several other departments, given her experience. Alliance Air is not being sold off with the Air India-AI Express-AISATS combine and will remain a PSU for now. AI’s old Boeing 747s will be transferred to Alliance Air, which currently has a fleet of turboprops, if the Maharaja gets a buyer and is privatised.
Harpreet Singh was the first woman pilot to be selected by Air India in 1988. However, she could not fly due to health reasons and has been very active in the area of flight safety. Singh has headed the Indian Women Pilot Association, where Bhasin and other senior women commanders like Captain Kshamta Bajpai are seen as role models by budding pilots.
Air India has the highest ration of woman pilots among Indian carriers. Indian airlines saw more women applying for pilot jobs in mainly two phases: Mid-1980s and then from 2005 when private low cost airlines started taking wings. Erstwhile Indian Airlines was the first to hire women pilots in the early 1980s. Captain Saudamani Deshmukh was the first woman commander (of a Fokker Friendship) in India. While global average of woman pilots has been 2-3%, India has been at over 10%.