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India’s first ‘Mach’ women to take wing on June 18

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

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

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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.

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. The achievement of the three would also be a significant milestone for the Indian military, which is yet to permit women into any combat roles.

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.

Mohana said she faced difficulty in discerning between the stars in the dark sky above and the small clusters of lights on the dark ground beneath, something every aviator flying at night encounters. “I recalled what my Instructor had taught me, ‘No unnecessary head movements, switch over to Instruments, Trust your Instruments’. These words echoed in my head, I disregarded the visual indications and continued descent to a lower altitude relying totally on instruments. Once visual with the ground, I got oriented and recovered the aircraft safely,” she said.



Avani Chaturvedi, from Satna in Madhya Pradesh, was inspired by the life of Army officers in her family. On a training day, she was proceeding for her second sortie of the day, when she realised how a decision made in the fraction of a second can be crucial for a fighter pilot.



As Avni was rolling for take-off there was a warning on the canopy warning audio which caused some confusion. But her training kicked in and she aborted. “That day I realized how the decision of a split second can get the situation under control or out of control. Had I delayed my actions that day of aborting take-off or got airborne with the canopy open, the results could have been catastrophic,” she said.



Bhawana Kanth, from Darbhanga in Bihar, likes outdoor games, rafting and rappelling. “It was my dream to fly like a free bird since my childhood which inspired me to join Indian Air Force,” she says.



“After clearing my Stage I training, I got golden opportunity to opt for fighter stream, the best and the biggest thing that has happened to me and the best part is, it is just the beginning. It is my aim to become a good fighter pilot and fight for the nation and make my parents proud,” says Bhawana.



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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 7:59:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/India%E2%80%99s-first-%E2%80%98Mach%E2%80%99-women-to-take-wing-on-June-18/article14429834.ece

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