Women empowerment is the most prominent issue in our country these days. But in between all the hullabaloo on social media and the rallies led by women demanding their rights, a 24-year-old accomplished her dream of becoming the first female Indian Air Force pilot to fly a MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft alone.
This brought to my mind two Bollywood films Rang De Basanti and Mausam which is based on the Indian Air Force. Why, you ask?
In both the films, the characters of fighter plane pilots are played by a male actor. No! I am not saying Bollywood is sexist. The point here is that Bollywood never had a real-life female fighter plane pilot to look forward to.
Well, I guess like every other woman of the country, now even Bollywood has a new inspiration. So how about we learn more about this woman who is breaking the stereotype.
Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi on February 19, 2018, became the first Indian woman pilot of the Indian Air Force to complete a solo flight in a MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft. Avani flew a 30-minute solo sortie in a MiG-21 at the Jamnagar airbase.
Avani Chaturvedi, 24, is from a small town called Deolond near Rewa in Madhya Pradesh. She loves to play violin and paint.
Her father is an executive engineer in the MP government. According to India Today, Avani is not the only one in her family to enter the defence forces. In fact, she is inspired by her brother who is a soldier.
"Any air force is defined by its fighters. My dream is to become a good fighter pilot, on whom my seniors can rely when it comes to flying live operations. I want to fly the best fighter aircraft and learn more and more each day," she was recorded as saying by The Times Of India.
According to ToI, it is a totally different ballgame to handle the highly-demanding and ageing MiG-21 "Bisons", which have virtually the highest landing and take-off speed in the world at 340 kmph, after flying only training aircraft like the Pilatus PC-7 turboprops, Kiran and Hawk advanced jet trainers.
According to Indian Express, before flying a fighter aircraft solo, Avani undertook flights in twin-seater training jets, along with qualified flying instructors of the IAF.
After learning the basics of flying a Pilatus aircraft at the Air Force Academy, she undertook six-month practice on Kiran trainer jets at Hakimpet.
Later, she did a year-long training on Hawk advanced trainer jets at Bidar Air Base.
At a pace with deep-rooted gender exclusion policy, the three women Avani Chaturvedi, Mohana Singh and Bhawana Kanth are breaking all the norms.
Like Avani, her colleagues will also go for solo fighter sorties after completing a dozen dual-check encounters in twin-seat MiG-21 Type 69 trainers with experienced fighter instructors to discover the basics of flying combat jets.
"This shows genuine equality of women in IAF because we have not gone by advice to shield them," a source said Indian Express. It is only after the IAF decided to recruit women as fighter pilots on an experimental basis that Avani Chaturvedi and her fellow pilot Bhawana Kanth were recruited. This experiment has been planned for a period of five years starting from 2016. After this first batch of three, now the second batch of two women fighter pilots is training on Hawk advanced jet trainers at Bidar.
"This is a major milestone in training of a fighter pilot and first time an Indian woman has flown a fighter aircraft solo. It demonstrates IAF's enduring commitment to Nari Shakti," IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Anupam Banerjee said.
Avani still has over a year before she gets deployed for combat missions with her 23 Panthers Squadron. This first solo flight is just an initial step in her exhaustive operational syllabus that helped her transform into a fully-fledged fighter pilot who is capable of handling the intricacies of high-voltage combat flying.
On this achievement of Avani, this is how Twitter reacted...
We are proud of you, Avani. Continue climbing the charts with your hard work and success. All the very best.
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