‘Riding on a white bird with long wings’: Woman flies ultralight aircraft across Atlantic

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Aarohi Pandit flew across the Atlantic Ocean in an ultralight aircraft and just arrived in Nunavut — and she says it was “like I’m riding on a white bird with long wings.”

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The 23-year-old from Mumbai, India, has been flying since the age of 17. She’s a commercial pilot at home, but recently decided to fly solo around the world in a year-long campaign to empower women.

“I just want girls, not just in India but around the world, to know that if you can dream it, you can do it,” said Pandit, after flying more than 3,000 kilometres across the ocean in extreme weather conditions. 

Pandit started her Atlantic stretch in Scotland, and took off from Nuuk, Greenland, last Monday. It took her about four hours and 40 minutes to land in Iqaluit on Tuesday.

“I have seen men doing it. I got the thought that if men can do it, why can’t a woman?”

Pandit says while four men have made the journey by ultralight, she’s the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in the tiny aircraft named Mahi — a Sinus 912, light-sport aircraft with a single engine, that weighs just over 400 kilograms.

Because of its size, it can only endure a few hours of flying at a time.

“It’s fun,” she said. “It’s very light. I feel like I’m riding on a white bird with long wings.” 

Rough weather, beautiful Baffin Island

Pandit says the journey didn’t come without its bumps — the weather could change every half hour, she said.

I was happy to be on land again. It was quite cold. I was freezing.

– Aarohi Pandit, pilot

“It was quite difficult to manipulate the winds and the clouds, and fly safe, keep myself and my plane safe over the ocean.”

But Pandit says she enjoyed the views approaching Baffin Island.

“It was beautiful,” she said. “Blue water everywhere, open skies. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ll never forget.”

Pandit’s airplane at the Iqaluit airport. She says the journey didn’t come without its bumps — the weather could change every half hour, she said. (Travis Burke/CBC)

And upon arrival, she was greeted with a warm cup of coffee.

“I was happy to be on land again. It was quite cold. I was freezing.”

Pandit started in India, then stopped in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, across Europe to Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and finally Canada.

Her longest stretch so far has been the first half of the Atlantic journey — from Scotland to Iceland — which took five hours and 20 minutes “because of vigorous winds.”

Now, Pandit is almost halfway around the world. She’ll fly to Alaska, then Russia, and eventually back home.

She’s hoping to break more records in her circumnavigation journey back to India by July 30.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/aarohi-pandit-woman-pilot-world-record-1.5142009?cmp=rss