It was a dream come true for Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh as they were inducted into the Indian Air Force as the first women fighter pilots on Saturday.
Addressing the media after being commissioned at a function at IAF Academy in Dundigal on the outskirts of Hyderabad, Kanth said, “I am privileged to be the first woman combat pilot in the Indian Air Force. I am also quite fortunate to get the chance of becoming the fighter pilot and it gives a sense of pride.” Singh said it was a special feeling for her and thanked her parents for their support to make her dreams come true.
Terming it a great feeling, Chaturvedi said, “We had to go through a rigorous selection process. Of the six shortlisted, we three made it to the last stage. We had to train at par with men. And we gave 100%.”
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said it was a red-letter day in the history of the Indian Air Force. “It is also a golden day as for the first time these women are going to join the fighter pilots. This will inspire more women to take up most challenging task in the armed forces. Our long-term objective is to work towards gender parity in the armed forces,” he said.
The minister reviewed the combined graduation parade of 130 flight cadets including 22 women trainees and commissioned them as flying officers. He conferred meritorious awards on the top ranking flight cadets. The graduation parade was followed by a spectacular air show by skilled pilots on Sukhoi fighter jet, Sarang helicopters and Akash Ganga skydivers.
Parrikar said the pilots will soon fly to Bidar in Karnataka for their next round of training including flying of fighter jets like Hawk, Sukhoi and Tejas. They will complete the training by next year, he added.
Parrikar said there was still a long way to go in inducting more women in all the three wings of the armed forces. “There are still a lot of technical and administrative difficulties in several areas in taking more women. We need to create a lot of infrastructure for women, especially in air force and navy wings. Yet, we will work towards creating more opportunities for them,” he said.