IAF women pilots shining in Sikkim

Flying factor: Filght Lt Poornima Ranade (left) and  Lt Arunima, members of relief operation team at the IAF base in Bagdogra, on Saturday.  PTI

Three of the 30-odd pilots from the 142 Helicopter Unit are putting in long hours to conduct sorties from “sunrise to sunset” to reach supplies and carry out evacuation from the remotest corners of north Sikkim, the epicentre of Sunday’s 6.8-magnitude earthquake.

The air base is the centre of all IAF relief operations for the neighbouring state.  Flying the Cheetah and Chetak choppers of the IAF, the women pilots have matched their skills with their men colleagues and have “captained” their respective choppers during the relief operations in some of the most inhospitable terrains after the tremor. Many inhabited areas are still cut off from the rest of the country due to landslides, and have been kept on life-support through air bridges.

Flight-Lieutenant Arunima Vidhate, a 26-year-old pilot who has clocked in over 350 hours of flying the Cheetahs and Chetaks, said her first sortie middle of last week was for carrying out a recce of the quake-hit areas to provide valuable inputs to the rescuers to reach the remote corners.

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