It was about fulfilling a childhood dream for one, for the girl whose roots are deeply implanted in the air force it was about carrying forward the legacy of her family and for a small town girl it was about the passion to fly high in the sky. The chase to fulfil their dreams have come to a joyous and cascading end to three young cadets today at the Air Force Academy in Dundigal, Hyderabad. Their stellar journey in chasing dreams has become part of India’s military history.
As young cadets, Bhawana Kanth, Mohana Singh and Avani Chaturvedi marched down the tarmac at the Air Force Academy in unison for the combined graduation parade, history was scripted in golden words. Today, Indian Air Force inducted the first batch of female pilots into its elite fighter squadron. Thus, these three young cadets not only realized their flying dreams but also became the first ever women fighter pilots of India.
The historic event was witnessed by the Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, who conferred the ‘President’s Commission’ to 129 graduating cadets. The group also included of 22 women cadets who have been inducted into various branches of the air force. He congratulated the young cadets and stressed upon the government’s and armed forces commitment to induct more women officers into the frontlines.
The three young women officers in their early 20’s have now successfully cleared ‘Stage-1’ of the demanding three stage training process. The women pilots during this phase flew for over 150-hours in Basic Trainer Aircraft and competed against men at equal levels and have now been awarded their wings. These officers will now move on to Stage-2 and Stage-3 of the training where they’ll familiarize with the operations of jet-engine powered aircraft on-board the BAE-HAL built HAWK trainer aircraft.
Bhawana Kanth hails from Bihar while Mohana Singh is from Rajasthan and Avani Chaturvedi is from Madhya Pradesh. Their induction to the force was revealed by Arup Raha, Chief of Air Staff, IAF, on Women’s day this year. Ever since, the three young cadets have been in the spotlight.
In an interview to OneIndia, a leading Indian news portal, the three cadets recalled their chase to fly high in the sky. Bhawana recalled her journey saying “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,”
Mohana Singh, is a third generation air force officer. Her father is a serving IAF officer and her grandfather was a flight gunner with the Aviation Research Centre (ARC). Mohana talking about her flying dreams in the interview to OneIndia says “My grandfather used to go to different places, on various missions as a Flight Gunner. Joining IAF for flying was a dream instilled by parents and grandparents. I wanted to carry on the family legacy of serving the Nation by being in defence forces. I wanted to live the same life. Flying was the best opportunity,”
Avani Singh always dreamt about flying free and high in the sky ever since her childhood. She got a shot at fulfilling her dreams when she enrolled for serving the air force after her graduation. An extract of the interview carried by OneIndia gives a sight into her dreams. Avani says “My dream is to become a good fighter pilot, on whom my seniors can rely on when it comes to fly for live operations. I want to fly the best fighter aircraft and learn more and more each day,”
The graduated officers proudly flashing their wings will now move on to Stage-2 and Stage-3 of the training. They will fly the more advanced BAE-Hal built Hawk Advanced Trainer Jet (AJT). Collectively, they will be clocking around 180 flying hours. This will help them understand the complex demands that arise when flying a supersonic fighter aircraft like the Tejas or the bigger Su-30 MKI.
It will only be after a year of flying and practising in the Hawk will the cadets be able to fly the advanced supersonic aircraft. The officers will be assigned to squadrons and forward deployed as early by May, 2017.
The spirits of these young Indian women has breached the pseudo glass ceiling and has made sure that flying high will be a part of their daily routine from hereafter.