INCREDIBLE STORY OF THE FIRST INDIAN FEMALE PILOT A SIKH NAMED HARITA KAUR


UntitledFlight Lt. Harita Kaur Deol (1972 – December 25, 1996) was a pilot with the Indian Air Force. She was the first woman pilot to fly solo in the Indian Air Force. The flight was on 2 September 1994 in an Avro HS-748, when she was 22 years old.

Career
Hailing from Chandigarh in a Sikh family, in 1993, she became one of first seven women cadets inducted into the Air Force as Short Service Commission (SSC) officers. This also marked a critical phase in training of women in India as a transport pilots. After initial training at Air Force Academy, Dundigul near Hyderabad, she received further training at Air Lift Forces Training Establishment (ALFTE) at Yelahanka Air Force Station.

However she died in an aircrash near Nellore on Dec. 25, 1996.[5] She was one of 24 Air Force personnel to die when an Indian Air Force Avro aircraft, crashed near the Bukkapuram village in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh.[7][8]

Zipped up in her navy blue overalls and strapped to the pilot’s seat inside the cockpit of an Avro aircraft, Flight Cadet Harita Kaur Deol made history when she kissed the clouds at a height of 10,000 feet on Friday morning. The 22-year-old girl from Chandigarh had become the country’s first woman pilot in the Indian Air Force to do a solo.

She flitted about in the clouds for half an hour maneuvering the aircraft with proficiency as her colleagues and seniors monitored her movements with a great sense of pride. It was indeed a momentous occasion for the five-feet-two-inch tall girl and the Indian Air Force.

With a modest smile, she emerged from the aircraft to a spontaneous applause, pats, hugs and handshakes. Was she in a state of daze… overwhelmed? “No, not at all. I am happy I was the first to do a solo and that I lived up to the expectations of my instructor,” replied Flight Cadet Deol. Having been inducted as a pilot into the IAF fleet of transport fliers, she always had the confidence, and now the solo sortie had only strengthened it further, she added. With her chin up. Flight Cadet Deol faced the glare of camera lights and said: “I will speak to my parents first… and may be celebrate today’s success with my friends over the week-end.”

Air Commodore P.R. Kumar, Air-Officer-in Command at Air Lift Forces Training Establishment (ALFTE), Yelahanka Air Force Station, Bangalore, who did the solo check, was beaming. “She was confident and in full control of the aircraft. Her take-off and landing were excellent. The standard she demonstrated was much more than my expectation. Girls are much more clear in their expression,” he gushed.

Air Commodore P.R. Kumar, Air-Officer-in Command at Air Lift Forces Training Establishment (ALFTE), Yelahanka Air Force Station, Bangalore, who did the solo check, was beaming. “She was confident and in full control of the aircraft. Her take-off and landing were excellent. The standard she demonstrated was much more than my expectation. Girls are much more clear in their expression,” he gushed.

The seven women cadets arrived at ALFTE, Yelahanka, in July this year for pilot’s conversion training. On successful completion of their Stage III training on Avro and AN-32, they will get their “Wings” and be commissioned at the Air Force Academy, Secunderabad, in December this year and subsequently posted out to squadron service.

Obviously, having come through such rigorous mental and physical tests, their zeal to come out with flying colors is unquestionable. None of them looks “tough” in their height or build, but they all believe: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

And of course, the Aircrew Examining Board has been all along validating their “very good performance”. Only three of the seven women cadets come from the services’ background with fathers retired as Army / Air Force Officers. The rest are daughters of professionals and businessmen. Three women cadets are from ex- NCC (Air Wing). Two had completed their Private Pilots’ License and one her Commercial Pilots’ License before joining the Academy at Hyderabad.