Prez trades sari for G-suit, flies fighter

Women in fighter jets will be considered, says Supreme Commander

Prez trades sari for G-suit, flies fighter


President Pratibha Patil waves after flying on a Sukhoi-30MKI of the Indian Air Force at the Lohegaon Air Force base in Pune on Wednesday. PTI An elated Patil, 74, flashed a victory sign and a beaming smile as she alighted after a nearly 30-minute subsonic (less than the speed of sound) flight. She then shook hands with all the air warriors present at the Lohegaon Air Base here.

Asked later if she was planning to go supersonic in her next flight, Patil said: “Why not? Yes, of course.”  “There was not any sort of apprehension, but there was excitement. I was, right from the beginning, very confident,” Patil told reporters after the sortie. “Today I had a wonderful and unique experience. I am reassured that we are well equipped and they (the armed forces) have the strength to protect our border. I feel proud at this moment...the aircraft was very sophisticated. I was instructed by the pilot how to manoeuvre and I could do that.”

“Today, I am proud and every Indian should be proud of the ability and the spirit of sacrifice and the talent and capability of our defence forces. I have all admiration for them,” said Patil.

Two-month preparation
The president said she has been preparing for over two months for the flight in the Russian-built twin-engine jet. “I usually do yoga, treadmill. Then they (IAF officials) came and told me what precautions are to be taken. Otherwise also I am quite regular in my daily life. May be that helped me. They (IAF officials) familiarised me with everything. I was confident when I got into the cockpit,” said Patil when asked about her fitness regime.

Wing Commander S Sajan flew the president, also the supreme commander of the Indian armed forces. Sajan, the commanding officer of the No 30 Squadron (the Rhinos), has over 3,200 hours of flying experience in various aircraft.  
After completing her sortie, Patil told reporters that a decision to induct women into the fighter stream will be taken after due consideration.

“The technical requirement and the qualification and the situation which one has to face are the issues which the IAF and the government will decide or consider. But let me tell you I have full faith in the ability of a woman,” Patil said.

“Earlier, the three forces did not have women. It was discussed and then they (women) were allowed. Now we have helicopter and transport pilots and women officers in all the three services. And now we are talking of bringing them into the fighter stream. The country has proactive thinking and women are also proactive. Let us see when a decision is taken,” said Patil.

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