Meet Bipasha Hrangkhawl, the journey from a small village to becoming Tripura’s first woman Air Traffic Controller was no less than a dream come true. She has been working at the Maharaja Bir Bikram Airport in Agratala for the past one year
Bipasha said, “It was my father who always had a dream to see me one day working at ATC.Since my childhood, we used to sit and watch the Popular Nat Geo documentary series ‘Air Crash Investigation’ channel together Every time we watched the show, my father used to ask me to apply for the job in future.”
Bipasha, 26, hails from Rangamura village, a distant tribal hamlet in Khowai district, 50 km from Agartala.Though she hailed from a small village, her family took her education seriously and admitted her in one of few best schools in Tripura.
As Bipasha’s father Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl, 51, was an employee of the state Power Department, and had a transferable job, Bipasha got to study in several missionary schools at Khowai, Dhalai and West Tripura districts. After her graduation from Konkan Gyanpith College of Engineering at Maharashtra, where she earned Bachelor in Engineering (B.E) degree in Electronics and Telecommunications.
Air Traffic Controllers are those who always work behind the scenes, ensuring safety of thousands of people who travel with the faith that we are watching them. I didn’t know what is an ATC. I saw it in the TV show ‘Air Crash Investigations’ with my father. He always inspired me to take up a job as Air Traffic Controller with the Airports Authority of India (AAI),” Bipasha told.
Bipasha struggled for her first job opportunity. Finally, she landed a job at Mutha Industries Private Limited as a marketing executive. But her dreams to become an air traffic controller was flying away from her grasp. After a brief stint of 10 months, she quit her job on August 2016.
“I can’t even count the failures I faced. I must have appeared in 20 competitive examinations. I hardly cleared 4-5 exams. But these failures never demotivated me. I was determined to qualify at least one examination,” she said, recounting her days of struggle.
However, amid all odds, Bipasha kept trying for a break in the Air Traffic sector.She did not clear the ATC examination in her initial try in 2015.The big breakthrough came solely in December 2017, when she managed to crack the exam in her second attempt.
She joined as an assistant Air Traffic Controller or Alpha controller at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai and served there for seven months. But then her biggest blow came.
Her father suffered a brain stroke in June 2018 and the family faced a crisis as he was the sole breadwinner in the family of four.Bipasha’s younger sister Rimi Hrangkhawl had to quit studies once she completed her graduation in English at Delhi University.
Bipasha being the eldest child of the family, she decided to shift to Tripura. Her daily routine entails joining duty at 7:30 in the morning and working till 8:15 in the evening. On her way back home, she also buys the family’s daily needs.
“Working at ATC is quite challenging since anything can happen in a fraction of second and we have to make decisions as quickly as possible. Or else, flights may get delayed and even cause danger to hundreds of lives,” she added.
Maharaja Bir Bikram (MBB) airfield Director VK Seth lauded Bipasha for her expertise at her work.“She is a very young controller.She is thefirstwomanair traffic controller of Tripura. She is a very competent officer and air traffic controller,” he said. The Agartala airport handles about 28 flight movements every day.
Air Traffic control chief sdbarman, who was Tripura’s first Air Traffic Controller, said Bipasha had shown commendable talent during times of crises and claimed that she was familiar withall the procedures.
“Bipasha is a very good controller. As ATC officers, we have to make ourselves competent to not only control flights but to handle crises as they occur. We also have standard operating procedures for situations like aircraft crash, fuel spillage etc. Bipasha is fully familiar with all the procedures,” Barman said.
Barman advised Bipasha should serve at bigger airports like Delhi and Mumbai where she could improve upon her radar ratings and necessary experience.But the 26-year old said she was happy to be beside her family and support them.
“For the next few years, my only focus will be to take care of my family and gain a stable income for that.In distant future, I would prefer to earn radar ratings which solely come after you cross a certain level in service as air traffic Controller,” she said.