Women pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) may finally get the opportunity of flying vintage Tiger Moth and Harvard planes as co-pilots for the first time. The opportunity may be presented to them as part of an IAF plan to greet a British-woman aviator, who is on a historic 13,000-mile solo flight from Farnborough in the UK to Sydney, in a vintage bi-plane.
Tracey Curtis-Taylor, 53, will touch down in New Delhi on November 24 in her 1942 Boeing Stearman Spirit of Artemis aircraft, as she attempts to reconstruct the epic journey made by Amy Johnson who became the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia 85 years ago.
The IAF wants to rope in its vintage flight and women pilots to pay tribute to one of the greatest solo achievements in history -– Johnson’s 1930 flight, a senior air force officer said. “If all goes as planned, two women pilots will fly in the Tiger Moth and Harvard planes of the vintage flight,” he said.
Women in the IAF have taken centre-stage after the Modi government approved an IAF plan on October 24 that would allow them to fly combat aircraft from June 2017, a watershed in the IAF’s 83-year history.
Flying as co-pilots in the vintage planes may be nowhere as challenging as withstanding G forces -- up to nine times the force of gravity -- in a supersonic fighter, yet the opportunity to fly in vintage planes is something seasoned aviators would drool over.
The IAF is planning to put up a “mini-air show” with its refurbished vintage beauties at the Safdarjung airport where Curtis-Taylor will land. The American T-6G Harvard trainer, phased out in early 1970s, was restored in the UK last year and took part in the IAF day fly past in October. Refurbished in 2012, the de Havilland Tiger Moth was operated by the air force in the 1930s and 1940s. The IAF is working on plans to refurbish more of its vintage planes.
Curtis-Taylor would have flown across 23 countries, making 50 refuelling stops including one in Pakistan, by the time she finally arrives in Sydney in January 2016. From India, she will travel on to Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia before flying across the Timor Sea to Australia.