The Indian Air Force announced the first solo fighter pilot flight by a woman in the organization’s history. Avani Chaturvedi flew a thirty minute solo sortie in a MiG-21 Bison at the Jamnagar airbase on Monday. It should be noted that the Bison is no beginner vehicle; the aircraft has the highest landing and take-off speed in the world at 340km/h.

Chaturvedi was inspired by Army officers in her family to join the Armed Forces, and after experiencing the thrill of flight at the flying club at her college, she applied to join the IAF, which opened the fighter stream for women in 2015. She graduated from Banasthali University in Rajasthan in 2014 with a BTech in computer science, and enjoys painting, chess, and playing the violin.

Chaturvedi was chosen along with Mohana Singh and Bhawana Kanth in 2016 to be the first Indian women to be commissioned as flying officers into the fighter stream. The other two have also completed their intensive training and will soon follow in her in the air.

Her achievement is notable not only in the Air Force, but also across India’s Armed Forces, as the Army and the Navy still prohibit women from combat roles for operational and logistical reasons. Most women in the Armed Forces are restricted to roles such as engineering, law, intelligence, medicine, and logistical support. Chaturvedi’s breakthrough in a combat role could mark the beginning of a new era of inclusion within the Forces; the next batch of three women trainee pilots for the fighter stream have already been selected.

There is still a grueling path ahead of Chaturvedi before she can be deployed for full combat missions. An intensive operational syllabus awaits her, designed to build trainees into fully-equipped, experienced pilots. She will have to undergo training that will teach her night flying, tactical maneuvering, air-to-air, and air-to-ground combat. Given how far she has come to achieve what she has, we wouldn’t bet against her to continue to set an enviable standard.

Image Credits; IAF

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