India’s first women fighter pilots get wings

India’s first women fighter pilots – Bhawana Kath, Avani Chatuvedi and Mohana Singh – were commissioned in the Indian Air Force today.

Each has cleared the first stage of training and has about 150 hours of flying. After getting their wings today as flying officers, they will train for six months on the Advanced Jet Fighter – the British-built Hawk – they will be assigned fighters and their squadrons.

Air Chief Arup Raha has already said that the woman fighters will get no preference and will be assigned as per requirements of the force.

The three women, all in their mid-twenties, have already encountered uncertainties and hazards of flying, when training and grit become the difference between a successful recovery and an accident, or even between life and death.

Avani Chaturvedi 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,” she recounts.

The warning, she says, “confused” her initially, but her hours of training took over and she “aborted” the take-off bringing the aircraft to a halt safely on the runway.

For pilots, says Cadet Chaturvedi, it all about “split second” decisions. “Had I delayed aborting the take-off or got air borne with the open canopy, it would’ve been catastrophic,” she adds.

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