Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi of Indian Air Force (IAF) flew her first solo sortie in a Russian made MiG-21 fighter creating history.
On Monday morning, Flying Officer Chaturvedi took off from the Jamnagar Air base in Gujarat and successfully completed her mission. The solo sortie in a fighter is the first step to becoming a fully operational fighter pilot.
Prior to her solo-sortie, on Monday morning, she took off from Jamnagar with her instructor for the last time for the Solo Check. For the last time, the instructor watched her carefully in a MiG-21 Bison Aircraft to ensure Flying Officer Chaturvedi got everything right.
Flying and more so fighter flying is a zero error profession, an IAF pilot said explaining the need for a Solo Check. Soon after, she would roar down the Jamnagar Airbase and get airborne again. Only, this time she didn’t have anyone flying with her to help her take those split second decisions on a fighter. Experienced flyers and instructors would, however, be at the Air Traffic control of Jamnagar Airbase and on the run-way to monitor her flight.
She is the first Indian woman to fly to a fighter aircraft solo. The solo sortie is a first milestone of any fighter pilot and this reinforces IAF commitment give a level-playing field to both genders, IAF spokesperson and fighter pilot Anupam Banerjee said.
The first sortie of Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi lasted for about 30 minutes in a super-sonic MiG-21 Bison fighter which is also considered to be a difficult aircraft to handle. The Russian made MiG 21 Bison is also the oldest fighter in IAF’s stable.
In the first sortie you are not expected to carry out very complicated manoeuvres. There are set drills one needs to go through whereby you get a feel of the aircraft, a senior IAF fighter pilot who didn’t wanted to named said.
“All fighter pilots are most likely to remember their first sortie. You feel powerful like a bird that has taken its first flight, he added.
Flying officers Chaturvedi, Bhavana Kanth and Mohona Singh were the first woman cadets to be admitted into the fighter stream of the IAF in 2016. Till 2016, the IAFs fighter stream was male only domain. Both Flying Officer Chaturvedi and Flying Officer Kanth have been assigned to the MiG-21 squadrons.
While the first solo sortie is a big step forward for the IAF, Chaturvedi still has few steps to walk before she is considered to be fully operational and can be deployed. She will now train for at least another two years before being deployed as a fully operational pilot.
For the next six months, Flying Officer Chaturvedi will fly the fighter to learn the intricacies of a fighter. She will then graduate to learn about tactical flying and then how to use an aircraft as a war fighting machine. She will have to learn how to fight during the day. After that she will have to learn how to fly and fight at night all over again, a senior IAF instructor said.