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US welcomes the new turbaned Sikh women pilot – Arpinder Kaur

The first turbaned sikh women in the United States

United States. Jan 23. UITV. For 14-year-old Arpinder Kaur, her flight from India to the United States evoked her desire to be a pilot. Today, she’s the first female Sikh pilot in the US and the first Sikh pilot of any gender to wear a turban on the flight deck.

Coming on the heels of the US Army allowing Sikhs to wear beard and turban as symbols of their faith, it has been a major victory for their rights and equality, coming as it did as the community worldwide celebrate the 350th birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singhji, the tenth and last guru of the Sikhs. 

As a child, Arpinder says she was a “tomboy”. She climbed trees, played cricket and played outside with the boys. 
Yet, nothing made her as happy as her very first flight. During the trip, the flight attendant asked young Arpinder if she would like to go inside the cockpit.

That flight represented the start of a new life for her family. Growing up in India, Arpinder says she felt the opportunity to be whatever she wanted to be waited for her in the U.S.

Her husband and his family have always valued education over everything, and supported Arpinder when she decided to go to aviation school. She immediately began with her discovery flight in Manassas, Virginia and then completed the rest of her pilot licenses at Air Associates of Kansas in Olathe, Kansas.

She was well on her way to fulfilling her dream of becoming a commercial pilot when her close friend, Kulbir Singh Sandhu, who worked with American Airlines recommended that Arpinder interview with their regional partner, American Eagle (now Envoy Air).

In 2008, Arpinder became an Envoy First Officer on the Embraer 145 (E145). Little did she know, she would be embarking on a barrier-breaking journey.

 “My main thing is to tell them, you are able to do what boys are able to do,” says Arpinder. “We have so many strengths. We’re capable of so many things. I tell them to pursue those dreams, because you’re able to become what you want to become.”

 

Arpinder Kaur, Flight Instructor

As a Sikh woman, Arpinder chooses to wear the dastaar. She believes that Sikhism, which has no pronouns in their literature, unifies men and women as followers of the religion.

“This turban is a symbol for my career path,” says Arpinder. “That’s why I am so thankful to (Envoy) for giving me that accommodation so I am able to get this out there in the community, and tell girls that anything is possible.”