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Female Helicopter Pilot Breaks Barriers in Nepal

Priya Adhikari is Nepal’s lone female rescue helicopter pilot, risking her life every day to save the mountaineers. She has flown to 6,200 meters above sea level to rescue a climber. The Himalayas have peaks over 8,000 meters, and it continues to give hard times to both experienced and neophyte climbers from around the globe. Helicopter pilots are needed to assist in rescues because they can access spots that most aircraft can’t.

Flying is currently a male-dominated profession, Priya has always been subjected to a lot of unwanted advice and worked hard to prove that females could also fly for a living. In a conservative country like Nepal she was always expected to stay at home, or work in a narrow range of occupations based on being a female. Defying the odds was her first challenge and she soon started flying to remote outposts in the Himalayas.

Every now and then, Adhikari gets re-routed from tourist flights or medicine resupply runs deep in the Himalayas, to rescue an injured trekker. There was a time when she had to remove the frozen body of a dead climber too.

“I went from being a medical student to a cabin crew for five years. But then I got a ride in a helicopter. I asked the captain how to be a helicopter pilot and within four months I went to the Philippines for the training,” she revealed.

“No one has flown as a single helicopter captain as a lady in Nepal; I’m the first one who is doing it flying solo. I don’t want to make a single mistake, so I just want to get more confidence and gain more knowledge,” Adhikari said.

She now hopes to pave the way for future female captains in Nepal.

“It will not be questionable again about whether they can do it or not, because I did it. I know I’m the only one in Nepal, but there are so many female helicopter pilots across the world. Just believe in yourself and do it,” she said.