IAF women crew dazzle in copter aerobatics
Bengaluru, February 22
The women crew of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was cynosure of all at the air show here Sunday with their daring aerobatics in homegrown choppers.
Squadron Leader Deepika Mishra and Flight Lieutenant Sandeep Singh were cheered by hundreds of spectators for being part of the aerial performance by the Sarang team flying the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) Dhruv.
As part of the aerobatics team to perform in formation at the five-day Aero India 2015 trade expo, which concluded Sunday, Mishra piloted one of them while Singh provided technical support as flight engineer to the military variant copters.Inspired by the aerobatics thrills of Surya Kiran aircraft and Dhruv copters, Mishra decided to join the aerobatics team after passing out as a flight cadet from the air force academy at Dundigal near Hyderabad in December 2006 and breach the male bastion.
“I used to dream of flying an aircraft solo or in formations for the thrill of it though I was not eligible then, as women pilots from only the short service commission had permit to fly non combat single-engine helicopters,” she recalled on the occasion.
In a policy shift, when the IAF allowed women pilots to fly twin-engine medium-to-heavy lift choppers in 2010, she joined the Sarang team in July 2014 as Squadron Leader with a record of flying Chetak and Cheetah copters for 1,600 hours from Bareilly base in Uttar Pradesh and Udhampur base in Jammu and Kashmir.
The air force formed the Sarang aerobatics team in October 2003 for public performance at the 2004 Asian Aerospace show in Singapore and other national and international air shows to demonstrate the air prowess of Dhruv.
Sarang is also the only second military helicopter display team in the world after ‘Blue Eagles’ of the British Royal Army Corps helicopter display team.
Her husband, Squadron Leader Sourabh Kakkar, an aeronautical engineer officer, is also posted with the Sarang unit at the training command here.
“It’s a great learning process and challenging job, as Sarang aerobatics team is a show-stopper at air shows, especially after the ageing Surya Kiran fixed-wing aircraft aerobatics team was withdrawn from flying display,” Sandeep Singh told IANS.
Both women officers hope that an all-women team will soon fly Dhruv as a Sarang quartet and maintain its record of entertaining the people with its spectacular aerial feats.
When she steps out for her flying job, Mishra tells her four-year-old daughter Aalya that she would look out for her from the sky, while the little girl looks for her mother performing aerial ballet whenever she takes off from the air base.