Harita few IAF aircraft before Gunjan or Sreevidya

Chandigarh girl at the age 22 became the first IAF pilot

IAF inducted the first batch of women fighter pilots in 2016. Interestingly, Pakistan had inducted women as fighter pilots much earlier in 2006. 


MUMBAI, Sep 7 (BNC Network) Amid the ongoing fight over the first IAF woman pilot, another interesting fact that has come to light. There were many women pilots who flew IAF aircraft before Gunjan Saxena and Sreevidya!

Writing about Jhanvi –starrer Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl The Quint says: Most people know that Gunjan Saxena was the first-ever woman IAF pilot. She along with Flight Lieutenant Srividya Rajan rescued soldiers during the Kargil War in 1999.

In the excitement over the Dharma Productions movie, many other media reports sought to paint Gunjan as the first IAF pilot who had to struggle in a male dominated force.

Countering these claims, Flt Lt Sreevidya Rajan said in her facebook post: “In the movie, Gunjan Saxena was shown as the only lady pilot to fly in Kargil operations. This is factually incorrect. We were posted together to Udhampur and when the Kargil conflict started, I was the first woman pilot to be sent along with the male counterparts in the first detachment of our unit which deployed at Srinagar. I flew missions in the conflict area even before Gunjan's arrival at Srinagar.”

A report by India Today in May 2019 said Bhawana Kanth has become first female pilot to finish operational syllabus for carrying out combat missions. She is from the first batch of women fighter pilots of the IAF, who joined the force in July 2016. Bhawana joined the fighter squadron in November 2017 and flew the first solo on MiG-21 Bison in March last year

But, BizNewsConnect records show that it was Flt Lt Harita Deol who at the age of 22 became the first woman to fly an IAF aircraft way back in September 1994.

In fact, the first batch of women pilots were inducted into IAF in 1994 as Short Service Commission officers in the transport fleet, records show.  

The seven women cadets (all in their early 20s) underwent their final stage III training at Air Lift Forces Training Establishment at Yelahanka Air Force Station, Bengalore in 1994. They were first trained at Air Force Academy, Dundigal.

During the final phase of training in the presence of journalists, Chandigarh girl Flt Lt Harita Deol (22) became the first woman pilot in IAF to fly solo on September 2, 1994 and the aircraft was Avro- HS-748. Unfortunately, two years later, she died in air crash in Nellore on December 24, 1996.

#RememberAndNeverForget: Flags of Honour Foundation, an initiative of Rajeev Chandrashekhar, pays homage to the brave heart in a tweet (on December 24 last) “#RememberAndNeverForget #Braveheart Flt Lt Harita Kaur Deol - the first woman #IAF pilot to lay down her life in the line of duty #OnThisDay 24 Dec'1996.”

She was also the 1st woman pilot to fly solo & one of the first 7 women cadets inducted into IAF as SSC offrs in 1993, the tweet says.

Besides Deol, the others were Archna Kapoor (Noida), Bindu Sebastian, Priya Nalgundwar (Bhopal) Pamela Rodrigues, Priya Paul and Anisha Shinh.

Journalists were divided in groups of 3-4 to fly with all seven of them separately on Russian-origin AN-32 and Avro transport aircraft of IAF

My former colleague from UNI, Pradip Bagchi, who covered the event flew with Priya Nalgundwar in her sortie during which she did some maneuvers for the first time as part of training under the supervision of her instructor.  

The UNI story was carried by Free Press Journal on September 4, 1994. (See pic)

Three of the women were from the services' background with their father as retired army or air force officer.

The second batch was then undergoing Phase I and II training while third and fourth batches had been earmarked for conversion helicopters.

IAF inducted the first batch of women fighter pilots in 2016. Interestingly, Pakistan had inducted women as fighter pilots much earlier in 2006. 



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