From Crockery to Cockpit: All you need to know about the three female pilots of IAF who are ready to take off

“Women are always saying,’We can do anything that men can do’ but men should be saying,’We can do anything that women can do.'”

It would not be wrong to call 21st century a women’s era. It is a century that has,uptill now, seen women from different parts of the country coming out of their four walled domestic sphere and creating history in various fields. Be it Arundhati Bhattacharya, Chanda Kocchar or Usha Ananthasubramanian, all of them have achieved milestone success in their careers. Mohana Singh, Avani Chaturvedi and Bhawana Kanth have become the new  names to be added in this list. These are India’s first women fighter pilots commissioned as flying officers.  They have been selected for flying the Supersonic Sukhoi-30 jets . The Sukhoi Su-30 is a twin-engine, two-seat super-maneuverable fighter aircraft developed by Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation Corporation.

It is a multi role fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface deep interdiction missions. The IAF has contracted 272 Su-30 MKI fighter planes, out of which nearly 240 have been delivered. The remaining are likely to be inducted over the next three years. Mohana Singh, Avani Chaturvedi and Bhawana Kanth are going to be India’s first female combat aircraft pilots who are likely to fly the Supersonic Sukhoi-30 jets after they complete the last leg of their training in September as said by the Indian Air Force officials on June 5,2017. “There are varied options but we are working on plans to assign the women fighter pilots to fly Su-30 fighter planes initially. It’s a new generation, twin-seater aircraft,” a senior officer familiar with the plan said. They were commissioned as flying officers in the IAF last June and are currently working on British Hawk advanced jet trainers at  an IAF facility at Kalaikunda in West Bengal.

The women are part of a batch of 40 flying officers training on Hawks at the Kalaikunda air force station. The women volunteered for the fighter stream after the government ended a rigid gender-based combat exclusion policy in October 2015.. Former IAF chief Arup Raha, during whose tenure the fighter stream was thrown open to women, endorsed the plan to let the women begin with flying Su-30 fighter jets. “I would prefer that the women go to a Su-30 squadron. It’s one of the most modern fighters in the IAF fleet and we also have the jets in large numbers. It’s a frontline plane and the women will learn to handle the systems faster,” said the Air Chief Marshal. He headed the IAF for three years before retiring on December 31, 2016. The women fighter pilots could be stationed together considering there are only three of them in the IAF. “In the initial stages, the pressure could be high. It’s good to have company. They can learn from each other,” Raha added. IAF sources said the performance of the women during their training matched that of their male colleagues.

The IAF has,however, advised women trainees to put off motherhood for at least four years after they are commissioned as fighter pilots so that their flying schedule is not disrupted. The 22-year old Avani Chaturvedi hails from a small town, Deoland in Shahdol district of Madhya Pradesh from where she completed her schooling. After the completion of her schooling she pursued Bachelors in Technology from Banasthali University, Rajasthan in 2014 after which she sat for and passed the Indian Air Force Exam and completed her training at Hyderabad Air Force Academy. Bhawana Kanth ,a  90 percenter in her class 10th Board Examinations,is a native of a remote village in Darbhanga district of Bihar and was born in Barauni,the refinery township of Begusarai. After completing her schooling from DAV School,Barauni,she went on to pursue her engineering Medical Electronics stream from BMS College of Engineering,Bengaluru.

Mohana, who hails from Jhunjhunu district in Rajasthan, pursued BTech in electronics and communication engineering from The Global Institute of Management and Emerging Technologies, Amritsar and graduated with 83.7% marks in 2013. The ordinariness of their life and background and the extra-ordinariness of their achievements,especially as a woman,is an inspiration for the entire youth of the country particularly women. These women have proved that if the determination is strong, achieving heights in life no more remains a dream in life. They have given a message to all the little girls reading this article i.e.“Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”



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