Avani Chaturvedi. Bhawana Kanth. Mohana Singh. Three names, anonymous to the world till now. Today, they are on the forefront of history, by being the first three women cadets to be cleared for flying fighter jets. While women pilots have been flying helicopters and transport aircraft since 1991 in the IAF, it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who finally took this landmark decision to open the cockpits of fighter aircraft for women. IAF is now going all out to make this experiment a success. “This is a learning experience for us. This is the first time we will be putting women cadets in the fighter aircraft cockpit. There are lessons for all of us. We will benefit from these experiences,” sources in the IAF headquarters said.
The three women flying cadets are undergoing flying training at the Indian Air Force base in Hakempet along with their male counterparts. There is no special treatment for the women cadets. They undergo the same rigourous training as the men. “No concessions for us. Physical fitness or mental robustness, the tests are the same,” says Flying cadet Mohana Singh.
Until the early 1990s women were disqualified from becoming fighter pilots in most of the air forces throughout the world. The exceptions being Turkey where Sabiha Gökçen became one of the first female fighter pilot in history in 1936 and went on to fly fast jets well into the 1950s, and the USSR during the Second World War 1942–1945 where many women were trained as fighter pilots including Lilya Litvyak and Katya Budanova, although both were killed in combat. In the last decade of the twentieth century a number of air forces have removed the bar on women becoming fighter pilots, including Pakistan, UAE, China and Poland.
We, at Centre for Social Research, wish the girls all the very best for their careers, and hope that young girls, take inspiration from them, and understand that sky is the limit for one’s dreams and aspirations.
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