Woman IAF pilot storms male bastion

Woman IAF pilot storms male bastion

The Indian Air Force’s Sarang aerobatics team now has a woman pilot who aims to fly high one day to carry out the daredevil stunts that her male colleagues do routinely.

Squadron leader Deepika Mishra saw the IAF Surya Kiran aerobatic display for the first time at the passing-out parade at Air Force Academy in Dindigul in Tamil Nadu in December 2006 and immediately fell for its charm.

After the Kirans came the Sarang helicopter team, which too, mesmerised Deepika who was commissioned in the helicopter stream and posted to a Chetak/Cheetah unit.

As per the IAF policy, women short service commissioned pilots were only permitted to fly these single-engine helicopters then.

In 2010, the IAF changed the policy and allowed conversion of women pilots to twin-engine category of medium to heavy-lift helicopters. Deepika was picked up as the first woman pilot for the indigenous Dhruv Advanced Lightweight Helicopter unit.  
Having notched up nearly 1600 hours on Chetak and Cheetah helicopters after her two stints at Bareilly and Udhampur, she was more than ready when the opportunity came.

She joined the Sarang unit in July 2014 and became the first IAF woman pilot ever to join a formation display team.

Incidentally, her husband, Sqn Ldr Sourabh Kakkar is an aeronautical engineering officer posted to the Sarang unit. The couple now form a team.

Deepika did not fly at Aero India 2015. At the moment, she is the safety officer and is needed to monitor the formation display and debrief the team members after the sortie. “It is a great learning process,” she says.

Deepika would not remain the only woman officer in the Sarang outfit for long. Flight Lieutenant Sandeep Singh, a woman engineering officer has also found a place in the Sarang unit. Both Deepika and Sandeep share a rare camaderie as among the first and the only two woman officers in the Sarang team, the IAF says in a press statement.

Sarang is the only second military helicopter display team in the world after Blue Eagles of the British Royal Army Corps helicopter display team.

As she steps out for her day’s job, Sqn Ldr Deepika feels happy to tell Aalya, her bewildered four-year-old daughter that she will look out for her from the sky. It will only be a matter of time before little Aalya get used to seeing her mother perform the aerial ballad in the blue sky.

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