In March 2015, Rao sanctioned Rs 35.5 lakh towards Syeda’s advanced pilot training

With govt funds nowhere in sight Captain Fatima Syedas dream is yet to take offImage By arrangement
news Pilot Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - 17:47

More than a year after Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao handed over a letter sanctioning funds that would help Captain Syeda Salva Fatima complete her training, the pilot’s dream is yet to take flight.

In March 2015, Rao sanctioned Rs 35.5 lakh towards Syeda’s advanced pilot training, but there’s been no blip on the radar signaling that she will receive the funds.

“I was very happy when the chief minister himself sanctioned Rs 35 lakhs for my pilot training. But I am still waiting for the funds and my license will expire by 2018. If don’t finish my training and get a job by then, years of hard work will go waste,” Syeda says.

Being pilot is a dream Syeda has nurtured since she was about 14 years old. Syeda recalls reading a newspaper report in 2003 which said that India had just three women pilots. Since then, she has wanted to do “something different” with her life.

After her intermediate (Class 12), Syeda was forced to take up a correspondence degree course in science. Her father Syed Ashfaq Ahmed, who works in a bakery, could not afford to send her to flight school. But around that time, she met editor of Siasat Daily newspaper Zihad Ali Khan who sponsored her aviation training. It cost Rs 16 lakh.

“I feel really blessed that Zihad sir helped me to train as a commercial pilot. Not just that, he also looked after me as his own daughter. Coming from poverty-stricken background and becoming a pilot was never easy for me I am glad that he helped me and sponsored my pilot training.”

At the end of her five-year course at the Andhra Pradesh Aviation Academy in 2013 Syeda obtained a Private Pilot License, Flight Radio Telephone Operator License, and a Commercial Pilot License (CPL), making her the possibly the first muslim woman pilot from Hyderabad. She has logged 200 hours of flying Cessna 152 and 172 aircraft, including 123 hours of solo flight. 

“The training was tough, especially the written exams. Almost everyone was from Delhi but I was determined to complete it,” Syeda said.

She is now looking for support to undergo multi-engine and type rating training to become eligible for a job in an airline. When the Telangana government assured help after an appeal by Muslim leaders, Syeda believed that she might just achieve her dream.

But now, even though it is within her reach, the promised support is nowhere to be found. “In these 14 months I have visited government offices innumerable times,” Syeda says. The advanced training will take a minimum of six months. She hopes to finish it by 2017 and get a job before the license expires.

“Last Thursday I went to Telangana secretariat again. I was asked to submit a letter to the director of the minorities department but I couldn't meet him as he was busy. Whenever I ask them the reason for the delay, they say that they are facing technical issues. I appeal to the government of Telangana to release the funds and help me finish my training advance as soon as possible.”