24-years-old Avani Chaturvedi scripted history on 19th February, 2018 as she became the first Indian woman pilot of the Indian Air Force to fly a jet fighter MiG-21 Bison solo. Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi flew the fighter aircraft for 30-minutes at the Jamnagar base.
In the times when Woman Empowerment is one of the most talked about issue in India, Avani’s achievement comes as an elating proud moment as it also breaks stereotypes that prevent women from joining defence forces. Before 2016, Indian armed forces comprised of only 2.5% women, mainly in non-combat roles.
Speaking about the same, spokesperson Anupam Banerjee told BBC, “It is the breaking of a glass ceiling.” He further called it a “big day” in the history of the country’s armed forces. Mr Banerjee also said that air force is committed to creating a level playing field. “This is one more step towards that commitment,” he was quoted saying BBC’s report.
Coming back to the girl who has inflated every Indian with sheer pride, Avani hails from Madhya Pradesh’s Rewa district. She did her schooling from a small town in MP named Deoland and further went on to pursue Bachelors in Technology from Banasthali University, Rajasthan.
It was only during college days that her camaraderie with flying began. At this time, she joined the Flying Club and cleared the Indian Air Force exam. Inspired by her brother, who is in the Army, Avani completed her training at Hyderabad Air Force Academy. Her father, Dinkar Chaturvedi is an executive engineer in MP government and her mother is a home-maker.
The fighter stream for women was opened in 2015 and Avani along with two other women, Mohana Singh and Bhawana Kanth, were the first three women to join the Indian Air Force fighter squadron in 2016. Bhawana and Mohana will also undertake the same fighter flight (MiG-21 Bison) soon as part of their training.
However, Avani’s accomplishment has put India’s name in the global list of countries like US, Pakistan, Israel, Britain, where women fly fighter jets. While it is just the beginning for India, surprisingly, Pakistan is way ahead than us in this case. Pakistan Air Force( (PAF) has around 20 female fighter pilots; Pakistan began inducting women into combat roles in 2006, a decade before than India.
After Avani completes her stage-3 training at Bidar, Karnataka next year, she will be able to fly fighter jets like Tejas and Sukhoi. And apart from flying, her hobbies include playing chess and table tennis. She also loves doing sketching and painting.