Flying officer Lt. Avani Chathurvedi has created history by flying a MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft solo. She completed the 30-minute long solo flight in the Russian-origin fighter jet at over the Jamnanagar air base in Gujarat.
This demonstrates India Air Force’s (IAF) enduring commitment to ‘women power’. She is the first woman to do so in the history of IAF. Avani is 24-year old and hails from the Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh. She completed her B.Tech from Banasthali University. After her B.Tech, she joined IBM but was only there for 6 months in the company and quit it to make her dream of flying choppers true.
After quitting the job in IBM, she prepared hard for the exam and cracked the Air Force Academy entrance in Hyderabad. Avani, who was posted to No. 23 Squadron, belongs to the first batch of 3 women officers who were inducted as fighter pilots into the IAF on June 18, 2016. The other two members along with Avani were Mohana Singh and Bhawana Kanth.
All the three were formally commissioned by the then Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar. Avani was so adamant to become a fighter pilot and decided not to join the air force, if she was offered a ground job and her inspiration was her family members, most of them are defence personnel.
First, Avani completed her basic training on a Pilatus aircraft and then underwent 6-months training on Kiran trainer jet which was further followed by a rigorous training stint for one year on Hawk advanced trainer jet. Lastly, before the stint, she had undertaken flights with twin-seater training jets accompanied by qualified flying instructors. On the D-day, she was flying the MiG-21 Bison combat fighter aircraft which can accommodate only one pilot and has the highest landing and takeoff speed at about 340 kmph.
Avani has become the pride of India, which now joined the list of nations where women fly fighter planes. Currently, the only countries who have women fighter pilots include USA, Britain, Israel and Pakistan. In the Indian Army and the Navy, the combat roles were off-limits for women due to operational and logistical constraints. But IAF has revised SSC to induct women into the fighter stream on an experimental basis for 5 years.