23-year-old Chikmagalur girl, Meghana Shanbough, scripted history on Saturday, June 16, 2018, after she became the first woman from Karnataka and South India, and the sixth woman fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
An engineering graduate, she graduated as Flying Officer from the prestigious Air Force Academy, Dundigal, and will now be deployed to Bidar for advanced training where she will be flying the Hawk.
Here’s all you need to know about Karnataka’s first woman fighter pilot who dreams of flying the Rafale:
- Meghana was born in the Marle village in Chikamagalur. She studied in the village until class 4 but requested her parents to let her continue her education at a boarding school. While her mother was wary of the idea, her father supported the girl’s dreams.
- And so she moved to Udupi, where she studied at Little Rock Indian School from Class 5 to 12 as a boarding student. She later decided to pursue engineering from the Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering (SJCE), Mysuru. It was at the time she established the Sahas-SJCE Adventure Club. The activities she undertook as part of the club lay the foundation for her IAF dream.
Speaking to The News Minute, she says, “During semester breaks we would often organise trekking, rafting, mountaineering and such other expeditions which toughened me further. I also got training in paragliding. This gave me a glimpse into life in IAF, as our trainers were retired officers. Their discipline and way of life was very awe-inspiring to me. And, I knew I was at striking distance from my dream destination.”
- The year that Meghana graduated with an engineering degree in information science, the IAF made an epoch-making decision of letting women into the cockpit of fighter planes.
- In June 2016, when three women, namely Flying Officers Mohana Singh, Bhawana Kanth and Avani Chaturvedi, wrote history on becoming the IAF’s first women fighter pilots after graduating from AFA, Meghana’s resolve to join the special force was fuelled to no end.
“I decided that I had to go for it, doing whatever it takes,” she told The Times of India.
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- She successfully cracked the AFCAT (Air Force Common Admission Test) and the SSB (Services Selection Board) in the very first attempt.
- She joined AFA as a Flight Cadet in January 2017.
- Her first flight as part of the FAM (familiarisation) sortie was on a Pilatus.
- Meghana has an impressive 50 sorties on Pilatus (Stage-I) and over 90 sorties on Kiran (Stage-II) to her credit.
- Her first solo flight was a month later, in August 2017, yet again on a Pilatus.
“It was a big day for me — being inside the cockpit, ready for a solo for the first time. To use you own call sign, having your own identity and being in control of your aircraft was really a great moment. I cannot forget those 20 minutes of being airborne,” she told the TNM.
- The fighter pilot has, in addition to the Pilatus, also flown the Kiran, an old workhorse of IAF reports The Times of India.
Once she completes enough flying hours on the Hawk in Bidar, she will be cleared to fly a fighter jet.
Whether it is a Mirage and MiG that she gets her hands on as part of the force is still a mystery, but her ultimate dream is to fly the Rafale one day, she says.
In her message to young aspirants who dream of becoming fighter pilots, she says, “I would want every young boy and girl wanting to become a fighter pilot to have really big dreams. Your dreams should be out of your league. Your dreams may be unconquerable at the moment. But you must chase them so hard that they are left with no option but to be yours forever in reality.”
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)