Avani Chaturvedi, 24 became the first Indian woman pilot to complete a sortie of MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft solo. She took half-an-hour for the long solo flight in the Russian-origin jet from the Jamnagar Air Base. “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.
Flying Officer Chaturvedi belongs to the first batch of three women officers which were commissioned as fighter pilots in the IAF in June 2016. She was training in twin-seater training jets till last week accompanied by Qualified Flying Instructors of the IAF.
After completing her basic flying training on a Pilatus aircraft at the Air Force Academy, Chaturvedi underwent six months of training on Kiran trainer jets at Hakimpet, which was followed by a year-long training stint on Hawk advanced trainer jets at Bidar Air Base.
“Flying Officer Chaturvedi has done well in flying. You will not send someone who is not good to fly a MiG-21,” told one of her flying instructors. Chaturvedi’s colleague, Flying Officer Bhawna Kanth, is expected to follow suit with a solo flight in MiG-21 Bison fighter jets very soon. Kanth is posted at Ambala with No. 3 Squadron of the IAF. Sources in the IAF called this a significant moment as it signifies a breakthrough in providing a ‘real’ combat role for women in defence services.