The Skydiving Trailblazer who Defies Gravity and Stereotypes Wants to Attempt Space Diving

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March 8, International Women’s Day

In January 2022, a 39-year-old Indian mother of two from Pune in Maharashtra made headlines when clad in the traditional Indian Saree, she completed the highest parachute jump (5000 ft) from a paramotor at the Government Gliding Center in Pune. Meet Shital Mahajan Rane, the courageous queen of the skies. This unthinkable feat was one of the four Asian records the spirited lady created in this extreme sport of skydiving she passionately pursues.

Shital has established herself as a professional skydiver, coach and judge. Since 2004, she has represented India in various international skydiving events, including camps, championships, and world record attempts.

A science graduate from Pune’s Fergusson College, Shital has completed a basic skydiving 5-jump course with the Indian Air Force. As of January 2024, her total parachute jumps are 784. Most of them were attempted from above 13500ft, a few from 18,000 ft with oxygen, and she took a plunge from eight different types of aircraft. She has also jumped from 30500 ft.

She is a DGCA-certified category drone pilot, holds United States Parachuting Association parachuting licenses A, B, C, D, and Coach, and has national and regional accuracy judge ratings.

Memorable jumps

Among her extraordinary feats was jumping 13,500 feet in 2018 to wish India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on his birthday, which falls on September 17. She held the birthday greeting card in her hand throughout the jump.

She is also the first woman to skydive across seven continents, achieving this outstanding record in 10 years, two months, and six days.

In November 2023, Shital set another record by becoming the first woman in the world to jump off a helicopter at a height of 21,500 ft in front of Mt Everest. Later, in her social media post, she acknowledged that it was the best performance of her life.

This courageous lady with no nerves has to her name the highest-altitude skydiving landing by a woman at Kalapatthar in front of Mount Everest, at 17444ft MSL.

Contribution to the sport

Skydiving is a relatively new sport in India. Shital established the first skydiving academy in Pune in 2012 to promote and raise knowledge of the sport. She encourages young people to pursue this activity by providing free coaching and ground training.

 

Having already made her country proud, in 2013, this premier skydiver from India conducted a skydiving programme in Maharashtra for the first time, allowing 52 Indians to pursue the sport in their home country.

 

In 2014, Shital planned and executed the idea of setting a new record for the maximum number of tandem skydiving jumps in a single day in a foreign land (Spain). In this endeavour, from 12-year-olds to 72-year-olds (89 Indians in all) attempted to create a world record in tandem skydiving by performing their life’s first tandem skydiving jump in a single day on a foreign land.

Future plan

So what next?

SPACE DIVING!

Yes, you read it correctly. As she conquers the sky with each breath, Shital is all set to skydive from space.

The lady is preparing for her next frontier: space. In an Instagram live chat with Union Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia, Shital revealed she was in talks with ISRO to make a ‘Made in India’ attempt at space diving.

She said, “So many men have attempted space diving, and if an Indian is attempting that, then why shouldn’t it be a woman?”

 

 

Shital, accompanied by other ace skydivers from India, plans to compete in the 2025 World Air Games in China, representing India internationally.

 

Her participation in skydiving sporting events promotes the sport and strengthens the country’s international reputation for aero adventure sports. Her accomplishments and involvement in numerous skydiving events have inspired many individuals, particularly women, to pursue adventure sports and conquer challenges.


Records and Awards

In 2011, the Government of India, recognising Shital’s exceptional contributions to adventure sports, awarded her one of India’s highest civilian honour, the coveted Padma Shree.

Shital’s other accolades include the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award, the Shiv Chatrapati Maharashtra State Sports Special Award 2004-2005, and the Federation of Aeronautique International’s (FAI) “Sabiha Gokcen Medal. She became the first Indian woman in history to receive the FAI Medal.

She has created several records, including 8 World Records, 26 National Records, and 4 Asian Records.

The daunting woman epitomises daring and determination. As India’s premier female skydiver, she has shattered stereotypes and soared to remarkable heights.

Her journey is a testament to her relentless pursuit, conquering over 780 jumps (as of 1 November 2023) and setting numerous records. Her indomitable spirit inspires countless aspirants, transcending boundaries in sports. She pioneered skydiving for women in India with courage and skill.

Through her unwavering passion and pioneering feats, she remains an emblem of empowerment and triumph.

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