UK flier inspires women pilots to set higher goals

UK flier inspires women pilots to set higher goals

UK flier inspires women pilots to set higher goals

Flying several thousand feet above the ground in an open cockpit aircraft, Tracey Curtis Taylor only has elements of nature as her companion.

On Tuesday, the 53-year-old British aviator, for a change, had the company of a bunch of young Indian Air Force women pilots, who said they wished to emulate Taylor and fly high.

IAF so far allowed women to fly transport aircraft and helicopters. The defence ministry opened up the doors to the fighter stream only last month and the first batch of women fighter pilots is likely to be inducted in 2017.

Also, no woman officer is certified to fly the IAF vintage aircraft in public, though a couple of them fly the refurbished de Havilland Tiger Moth and T-6G Harvard trainer.

The UK aviator inspired all these young fliers to take up bigger challenges. “She is an inspiration because flying in an open cockpit aircraft where you face the winds, rain, dust and cold is a challenging experience,” said Sq Leader Kanwaljit Kaur, an AN-32 pilot, who on Tuesday flew the IAF’s Tiger Moth along with Taylor's Boeing Stearman.

Curtis Taylor is retracing the historic flight of British aviator Amy Johnson, who was the first woman to fly solo from UK to Australia in 1930.

Taylor's 13,000-mile journey spans over 23 countries and involves stopping at 50 places for fuelling as her biplane, Spirit of Artemis, cannot fly more than six hours at a stretch. “The 1942 Boeing Stearman was a military training aircraft during the World War-II. It is a resilient aircraft,” she said.

The journey has delivered several unforgettable moments and incredible challenges. “From nasty European weather delaying the flight across Romania to the beauty of flying at 100 feet over desert and experiencing the dust storm, every moment is extraordinary.
India is the centrepiece of the journey as I am halfway through the flight,” she said.

She landed in Ahmedabad last week and hopped to Jaipur. On Monday, Taylor touched down at Hindon from where she would fly to Agra, Varanasi and Kolkata before crossing over to Bangladesh. The final landing in Sydney is expected in January, 2016.

Flight Lieutenant Nilofar Tariq is one of the IAF woman pilots, who gave company to Taylor and drew inspiration from her. The helicopter pilot, who clocked close to 1000 flying hours, now considers approaching her higher-ups for a switch to the fighter stream.

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