When one is so close to achieving their lifetime ambition, literally minutes away from making their dream come true, would they ever imagine losing their life? Unfortunately, that is what happened in Anju Khatiwada’s life.
On the fateful day of January 15, Anju Khatiwada, the co-pilot of the Yeti Airlines aircraft, was to become the chief pilot upon landing at the Pokhara International Airport. Tragically, the ATR-72 aircraft with 68 passengers and four crew members crashed into a river gorge at Nayagaun minutes before landing. This is the deadliest plane crash in the Himalayan nation in thirty years.
Khatiwada, regrettably, ended up sharing the same fate as her spouse, Dipak Pokhrel, who was killed in a plane crash 16 years ago. Pokhrel passed away in the crash of a twin Otter plane of the doomed Yeti Airline in Jumla in 2006.
“Weather is beautiful. Very good visibility. The runway is clear,” senior pilot KC Kamal had told the air traffic control (ATC) in Kathmandu before taking off the Yeti Airlines ATR-72 aircraft, according to Nepalkhabar. On that fateful Sunday, Kamal was giving co-pilot Khatiwada one last training before promoting her to pilot. Since the weather was clear, the cause of the crash remains uncertain as of now. According to an official in Kathmandu, Sher Bath Thakur, the black box—a cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder—has been found.
Losing a spouse and the father of one’s child can be one’s worst nightmare come true. Life becomes a question mark and the future can be scary in that vulnerable moment. Given that Khatiwada lost her spouse under unexpected circumstances, the loss would have been excruciating. But did any of that deter Anju Khatiwada, a young mother who lost her co-pilot spouse to a plane crash? The grief, anguish, trauma, agony, and angst were all there. But there was also a dream that her spouse had left behind. The dream of becoming a chief pilot. And he was so close to achieving it before his unexpected demise. Now there were two choices. Khatiwada could either give in to the pain, or she could turn that pain into a driving force and make the dream come true.
Khatiwada chose to turn her grief into a motivational force. According to Reuters, the airline spokesperson, Sudarshan Bartaula, said that Khatiwada got her pilot training with the money that she got from the insurance after her spouse’s demise. Four years after her spouse’s demise, Khatiwada overcame numerous challenges to train in the US to become a pilot. After gaining the necessary qualifications, she joined Yeti Airlines. “She was a full-time captain at the airline who had done solo flights. She was a brave woman and had over 6,400 hours of flying time,” Sudarshan Bartaula from Yeti Airlines said. “She was a determined woman who stood for her dreams and fulfilled the dreams of her husband,” Santosh Sharma, a family member, said.
It is not easy for a woman to gain a job in a male-dominated industry like the airlines. And for someone like Khatiwada, who had lost her spouse and became a single mother of a young child, the journey would have been filled with physical, emotional and social challenges. Generally, when an unfortunate incident occurs in a particular place, we tend to distance ourselves from it because of the traumatic memories.
The choice to go back and work for the same airline where her spouse had passed away reflects Khatiwada’s undeterred determination, emotional strength, and courage. Every place, every flight, every journey, and every spot might have had a memory that her spouse had shared with her. Working in that same place could have been emotionally triggering. Her unwavering inner strength and dedication to the goal leave one in awe of her. She was indeed a fierce woman who literally reached untouchable heights and almost made her dream come true if not for that fateful incident.
This would be the most tragic story of our time. Anju Khatiwada will always be an inspiration to all women, especially single mothers and widowed women. Khatiwada was a resident of Nepal’s Biratnagar and the mother of a seven-year-old boy. She had remarried and had another child. According to her family, she adored her job and was a delight to be around.
Suggested Reading: Pilot Couple Killed In Air Crashes In Nepal, 16 Years Apart
We request you to support our award-winning journalism by making a financial contribution towards our efforts. Your funds will ensure we can continue to bring you amazing stories of women, and the impact they are making and spotlight half the country's population because they deserve it.