In three days, India gets its first women fighter pilots. Flt Cdts Bhawana Kanth, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh, who’ve been training in intermediate jets at the IAF’s flying academy in Hyderabad, will be India’s first women who fly fast jets and will be deployed eventually at fighter squadrons. For good reason, they’ll be the centre of attention on Saturday at the commissioning ceremony.
The Indian Air Force has helpfully sent out literature on the three women pilots, including some of their experiences while fighter training. Some excerpts below:
Bhawana Kanth says, “After clearing my Stage I training, I got golden opportunity to opt for fighter stream, the best and the biggest thing that has happened to me and the best part is, it is just the beginning. It is my aim to become a good fighter pilot and fight for the nation and make my parents proud.”
Bhawana goes on to talk about an experience with her first solo spin:
“Before opting for fighter stream lots of people used to tell us that, challenges will keep on increasing and so will the gradient, but it used to sound clichéd. During our syllabus we were about to be introduced to spin in Kiran ac, which I thought would be a piece of cake, as we had already done spin solos in the previous stage on Pilatus ac. But the day we were introduced to spin in Kiran, we realized it was not the same. But time and again we were briefed that, if we take prompt and correct recovery actions, each and every time the aircraft will recover from spin. So the recovery actions became a part of my muscle memory. Having cleared my spin solo check in Kiran now it was time for me to enter the aircraft into spin and recover it all by myself. At 20000 feet the doubt started creeping in that what if the aircraft doesn’t recover. Then 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 I told myself come what may I will recover. And all the recovery actions grilled in us during the training came out correctly and promptly and the aircraft recovered from spin and so did my confidence.”
Avani Chaturvedi says, “I got selected for flying stream and subsequently for fighter flying. I got the golden opportunity to fly two different aircraft, one very modern and advanced, and one stalwart trainer, with best of the instructors. My dream is to become a good fighter pilot, on whom my seniors can rely on when it comes to fly for live operations. I want to fly the best fighter aircraft and learn more and more each day.”
And here’s Avani’s experience with reaction time:
“I was proceeding for my second solo sortie for the day. The time spent on ground was more due to a number of solos ahead of me in the taxi sequence; same was being exaggerated by the Sun beating down heavily on us. Finally I reached the Take Off point and took permission for T/O. As I started rolling for T/O, nearing the first marker I heard the Canopy Warning Audio coming on. At first I got confused seeing the emerging situation. However, the training which I had undergone helped me reach the decision almost immediately. I aborted the T/O and took all the actions to stop the aircraft safely on the R/W. While I was having lunch that afternoon, I reflected back on the incident. That day I realized how the decision of a split second can get the situation under control or out of control. Had I delayed my actions that day of aborting T/O or got airborne with the canopy open, the results could have been catastrophic.”
The third woman pilot Mohana Singh says, “I aspire to make my parents proud of me by becoming a fighter pilot and fly the best of the Fighter aircraft in the IAF. I dream of being part of the future combat missions and fight for the nation when duty calls for guarding the Nation’s skies.”
She talks about nightflying missiong during training:
“Night flying was new to me and it was the best thing that ever happened after coming to Kiran ac. I remember the small puffs of beautiful crackers bursting 1000’ below me on my first take off in night flying phase. The ones I used to gaze frombelow and was amazed at when I was a child. I was on my first Sector Solo Sortie by night on Kiran ac. While operating in sector I witnessed some lightning close to me which frightened me for a moment. I immediately initiated rejoin and during descent I encountered clouds. I faced difficulty in discerning between the stars in the dark sky above and the small clusters of light on the dark ground beneath. Soon 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”. These 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.”
Meanwhile, here’s a short video the IAF put out today on the three ladies, for some reason set to (among other tracks) Metallica’s Master Of Puppets. (I’ll be sending the IAF a new playlist, yes).