Three women commissioned as country's first fighter pilots

Last Updated 18 June 2016, 19:54 IST
Three women cadets at the Dundigal Air Force Academy here created history by becoming the first commissioned female fighter pilots in the country, living their dream to secure a combat role in the most competitive of Defence branches.

Flying officers Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh were among the 130 flight cadets and 22 women trainees to have been conferred the President’s Commission by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar at a parade here on Saturday.

Belonging to a family of army officers, Avani from Satna in Madhya Pradesh, said she was inspired by her brother, who is also serving in the military.

A passionate flyer, Avani joined her college’s flying club. “We feel privileged to be the first (female) fighter pilots,” Avani said, adding, “Anyone could have got the opportunity, but we got it first.”

In all, six women cadets competed for combat positions. While one was given transportation, two were inducted into engineering.

“In the end, the three of us got into combat,” said Bhawana, from Darbhanga in Bihar.
“Our choices were taken into consideration while allotting the branches. We were examined before going solo. Flying solo is a special feeling and we enjoyed it the most,” said Bhawana, daughter of an IOC official. Dreaming of piloting aircraft from childhood, Bhawana made up her mind to be in the fighting stream.

“Being a pilot meant we should be physically fit. No considerations were given during training because we were women,” Mohana Singh, from Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan, said.

A third-generation officer, Mohana’s grandfather was a flight gunner in the Aviation Research Centre and father a warrant officer in the IAF. “We are lucky we have everyone’s support,” she said, with approving glances from her mother Manju Singh who said she would keep the tradition going.

The trio will now proceed to Bidar in Karnataka to train on Hawk advanced jet trainers for a year, before they fly supersonic warplanes.

Speaking on the occasion, Parrikar said the government wants total gender parity in armed forces.

“There are technical and administrative difficulties which we are likely to face in certain areas. Step by step, we will achieve parity. The number of women in combat role will depend on how many we can accommodate and create infrastructure,” the defence minister said. Creating a separate NDA (Defence Academy) for women, making additions to training facilities and designing submarines to accommodate both genders are some of the infrastructure challenges Parrikar pointed out.

“We have almost made a permanent decision (to induct women in combat roles),” he said.

(Published 18 June 2016, 19:41 IST)

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