HYDERABAD: Flying cadets Bhawana Kanth, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh are all set to make history on Saturday: they will be commissioned as the first women fighter pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The three women will be getting their wings as flying officers at the passing out parade reviewed by defence minister Manohar Parrikar at the Air Force Academy, Hyderabad.
The trio cleared the first stage of training and have about 150 hours of flying. After getting inducted into the IAF fighter squadron, they will train for six months on the IAF's advanced jet fighter, the British-built Hawk.
The women, all in their mid-twenties, have already encountered the challenges of being a fighter pilot. Recalling her first solo spin and recovery manoeuvre while flying at 20,000 feet, Bhawana Kant said doubts started creeping into her mind as to what would happen if the aircraft didn't respond.
"I told myself that if I don't do it now, I will always be afraid of it. I spun the aircraft, and to my surprise, the spin was more vicious or so it seemed. But the fighter pilot in me took over and all the recovery actions drilled into us during training came out correctly and the aircraft recovered from the spin and so did my confidence," Kant said.
Avani Chaturvedi had to abort her second solo sortie minutes before take-off. "As I started rolling for takeoff near the first marker, I heard the canopy warning audio," she recounted.
"I got confused. However, my training helped me take a decision almost immediately, I aborted the takeoff, bringing the aircraft to a halt safely on the runway. That day I realized how the decision of a split second can get the situation under control or out of control. Had I delayed aborting the takeoff or got airborne with the canopy open, the results could have been catastrophic," Chaturvedi said.
On her first solo night sortie, flying cadet Mohana Singh encountered bad weather with thunder and lightning and she couldn't distinguish between the stars in the sky and a small cluster of lights on the ground.
"I realized that I was not able to maintain any connection between instruments and the visual indications of aircraft attitude. I recalled what my instructor had taught me: No unnecessary head movements, switch over to instruments, trust your instruments. The words echoed in my head. I disregarded the visual indications and continued descent to a lower altitude relying totally on instruments. Once visual with the ground, I got oriented and recovered the aircraft safely," Singh said.