The Indian Air Force inducted its first batch of women pilots into its fighter squadron on Saturday. The passing-out parade organized at the Indian Air Force Academy in Hakimpet, Hyderabad marked a landmark event in the history of IAF as the first three women, Avani Chaturvedi, Mohana Singh and Bhawana Kanth were commissioned in the fighter stream of the flying branch. All of them cleared the first stage of training and have about 150 hours of flying. They will now go to Bidar in Karnataka for their stage-III training on the Advanced Jet Fighter – the British-built Hawk for six months before they are ready to fly supersonic warplanes.
In October last year, the government approved an IAF plan to induct women as fighter pilots on an experimental basis for five years. Six cadets were competing for the same. Meet the three cadets who were finally selected.
Born in Satna in Madhya Pradesh, Avani Chaturvedi did her schooling from Adarsh School in Rewa and BTech in Computer Science from Banasthali University, Jaipur. Her father is an executive engineer with the state government. During her training, she had to abort her second solo flight sortie minutes before take-off.
“As I started rolling for take- off near the first marker, I heard the Canopy Warning Audio…I got confused seeing the emerging situation. However, the training which I had undergone helped me reach the decision almost immediately, as I aborted the take-off, bringing the aircraft to a halt safely on the runway. That day I realized how the decision of a split second can bring the situation under control or out of control. Had I delayed aborting the take-off or got airborne with the canopy open, the results could have been catastrophic,” she told The New Indian Express.
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After her schooling from Air Force School in New Delhi, Mohana Singh completed BTech in Electronics and Communication from Global Institute of Management and Emerging Technologies, Amritsar. She comes from Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan. Her father is a serving IAF personnel and grandfather has served as a flight gunner at Aviation Research Centre.
“I wanted to carry on the family legacy of serving the nation by being in defence and what better way than fighter-flying…I dream of being a part of future combat missions, and fight for the nation when duty calls,” she told The Times of India.
A resident of Begusarai in Bihar, Bhawana Kanth finished school from Barauni Refinery DAV Public School and BE in Medical Electronics from BMS College of Engineering, Bangalore. Her father is an engineer with Indian Oil Corporation Limited, Bhawana.
Talking about her first solo spin when flying at 20,000 feet, she started having doubts on what would happen if the aircraft didn’t respond, Bhawana said: “I told myself that if I don’t do it now, I will always be afraid of it. I spun the aircraft and to my surprise, the spin was more vicious or so it seemed. But the fighter pilot in me took over and all the recovery actions grilled in us during the training came out correctly and promptly. The aircraft recovered from the spin and so did my confidence.”