India’s first ‘Mach’ women to take wing tomorrow

NEW DELHI,DINAKAR PERI: One dreamt of flying like a bird since childhood, another wanted to carry on the family legacy of flying, and a third one began to fancy a lifelong career as a pilot since amateur flying in college. The three women, in their early 20s, are set to create history as India’s first women fighter pilots when they will be commissioned on Saturday.

Avani Chaturvedi, Mohana Singh and Bhawana Kanth will be commissioned as fighter pilots. — Photo courtesy: IAF

Flight Cadets Avani Chaturvedi from Madhya Pradesh, Bhawana Kanth from Bihar and Mohana Singh from Rajasthan are currently undergoing Stage-II training on Kiran Intermediate Jet Trainers at Hakimpet Air Force station in Hyderabad. Once they pass out at the Combined Graduation Parade Spring Term 2016 on Saturday, the three will begin advanced training on advanced jet trainer Hawks. It will take another 145 hours on the Hawks for almost a year before they would actually get into the cockpit of a supersonic fighter.

Last October, the government decided to open the fighter stream for women on an experimental basis for five years. But combat roles in the Army and the Navy are still off limits due to a combination of operational concerns and logistical constraints.

“Joining the Indian Air Force for flying was a dream instilled by parents and grandparents,” says Ms. Mohana Singh, whose father is with the IAF and grandfather is still serving as a flight gunner in the Aviation Research Centre.

Ms. Chaturvedi, from Satna in Madhya Pradesh, was inspired by the life of Army officers in her family.

Says Ms. Kanth from Darbhanga in Bihar: “It was my dream to fly like a free bird since my childhood which inspired me to join the Indian Air Force… It is my aim to become a good fighter pilot and fight for the nation and make my parents proud.”