Priti Kohal is a pilot, mother and wife and an ace in multitasking. Priti’s love for flying began when she was a 16-year-old, in Mumbai. But her passion for planes started sitting in the driving seat on the open road, not wide-open skies. As a teenager, Priti, now 45, would take her parents’ car for joy rides around town. She loved being in control of the vehicle and the freedom that came with it. “I just loved the thought of getting away,” Priti told BBC.
Priti earned her pilot’s license in 1994 and since 1996 has been a pilot with Jet Airways — she’s one of 600 female pilots in India — she’s been a captain since 2009. There are only 4,000 female pilots worldwide, versus 130,000 male pilots, according to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots.
Priti’s doctor mother and engineer father taught her and her sister that they weren’t any different from men and could do anything they wanted as long as they had fun doing it. This family support has helped her excel, but many women entering traditionally male-dominated professions in India encounter more obstacles. Priti says she hasn’t run into sexism, but other females in the airline industry have and continue to face hurdles simply because of their gender.
Priti never thought twice about being in the airline business. “I never considered being a pilot different from being an engineer or a teacher,” she said. “There were no limits for what we could do,” said Priti. When her children were younger, Priti only flew one- or two-hour flights. She woke at 03:30, fed her baby, put him back to sleep and then headed off to the airport by 04:00. She’d work her flight and usually be home by 10:30, having the remainder of the day to spend with her children. By sticking with this system and meticulous planning, Priti said she has never missed an important milestone or a school meeting for her children, now ages 14 and 11.
Contrary to how it may appear, being a pilot is a “very good career” for managing home and work life, Priti believes, but it takes strategic planning. She decided to choose her flights so that she could spend time at home with her children. As long as someone doesn’t mind getting up in the wee hours of the morning, they can be home for long stretches of the day, she said.