Culture

Meet the first women fighter jet pilots of the Indian Air Force

Sky's not the limit

Navigating everyday India’s multiple identities is not for the faint-hearted. As we straddle the dichotomy of our culture and patriarchy, occasionally there comes a story that makes your heart soar. In 2016, the Indian Air Force (IAF) inducted the first batch of women fighter jet pilots — Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh.

IAF Women pilots 3

Mohana Singh

It was in October 2015 that the government, spearheaded by the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, took the decision to open the fighter stream for women on an experimental basis. “The IAF has had women pilots for over 20 years — in the transport and helicopter stream. But it was time the IAF paved the way for women to shatter the ultimate glass ceiling and open up the fighter flying stream for them,” says Air Commodore LK Chawla, the Air Officer Commanding, Air Force Station Ambala.

IAF Women pilots 2

Avani Chaturvedi

The IAF has been at the forefront of empowering women. While they were always enrolled in the medical branch, in 1992 the IAF started the induction of women to other branches initially in Ground Duties, and later to train for flying transport aircrafts and helicopters as well.

IAF Women pilots 1

Bhawana Kanth

Image credits: Tarun Khiwal

Excerpted from the April 2018 issue of ELLE India. Subscribe to the print edition here or click here for a single digital copy.