Following the commissioning of India’s first set of women fighter pilots in June this year, not a single female pilot has volunteered to join the fighter aircraft team. The news comes exactly a year after the IAF Chief Arup Raina invited women officers to join his team in the cockpit of fighter planes.
From the latest batch of women pilots,All have chosen to fly helicopters and transport Aircraft instead.
As of now, IAF is the only place that has opened its entire stream to women officers, unlike the Navy and the Army that still retain several streams where the entry of women is disallowed.
In the current batch which is being trained at Dundigal, Hyderabad, nearly 4 women have made the cut, yet none of them chose to fly fighter planes.
“However, they’ve chosen options other than flying fighter planes. One has opted for the transport fleet and three have sought to join the helicopter fleet. This is strange, no doubt but I will not lose my sleep over it. It is an individual’s decision.”explained a source.
Flying a fighter plane is a cadet’s call and thus no intervention whatsoever can change it. The current batch of women pilots have opted this way, and the next may choose in an entirely different way.
The choice of stream is a voluntary one and the women pilots have chosen the safer Transport and Choppers over the Fighter Aircraft which includes flying in war zones. Often quoting safety concerns, women were omitted from joining this band, being restricted to streams like Logistics, Administration, Education and Technical. While Indian Army and Navy are still sticking to it, Airforce had opened the cockpits for its lady officers in January.
Allowing women pilots to opt for fighter streams is currently on an “experimental basis for five years”.
Flying Officers Avani Chaturvedi, Mohana Singh and Bhawana Kanth who were commissioned in the 197th batch are currently going in their “Stage III” training at Bidar in Karnataka. Once they complete their third and final stage, they will start flying with the units assigned to them.