Flight Lieutenant Harita Kaur Deol became one of the first seven women cadets inducted into the IAF as Short Service Commission officers in 1993. She was the first woman to fly without a co-pilot in an Avro HS-748 aircraft.
India has largely been a patriarchal society, where women often find themselves in a quandary: should they shatter stereotypes or conform?
There are some women who move ahead with conviction and lead by example, serving as true inspiration for the generations to come. One such firebrand was Flight Lieutenant Harita Kaur Deol, who ventured into the armed forces, a male-dominated bastion.
She was the first woman to fly without a co-pilot in the Indian Air Force (IAF), when she was only 22 years old. Harita became one of the first seven women cadets inducted into the IAF as Short Service Commission officers in 1993.
Harita, daughter of Army veteran Colonel Deol, was always passionate about turning her dreams into reality. She was much ahead of the curve, and broke the glass ceiling, way before empowerment became a buzzword.
In 1992, the IAF first put out an advertisement, announcing vacancies for eight women pilots. Little did they know that it would receive an overwhelming 20,000 applications from all over the country. After a series of tests, only 13 women made the cut; Harita was one of them. Soon after, she was recruited as one of the seven cadets to be inducted into the IAF.
Harita’s initial training took place at the Air Force Academy in Dindigul near Hyderabad, after which she went to Air Lift Forces Training Establishment (ALFTE) at Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bangalore.
On September 2, 1994, Harita scripted history and became the first Indian woman to fly solo without a co-pilot, in an Avro HS-748 aircraft. What’s more, she literally flew high at a height of 10,000 feet - a milestone for the IAF.
Air Operation Task, 1996
It was on December 24, 1996, that Harita was assigned to be a co-pilot on an important mission. She took off from Chennai in her HS-748 Avro aircraft as a co-pilot on a sortie to Hyderabad.
However, her aircraft faced some technical glitches and the young pilot had a tragic death, after her aircraft crashed near Bukkapuram village in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh.
Harita’s life will always be celebrated, and continue to inspire several young women to pursue their dreams!
(Edited by Teja)