Nagpur-based Antara Mehta, a flying officer with the Indian Air Force (IAF), has become the first-ever woman from Maharashtra to become a fighter pilot. An engineer and national-level basketball player, she had harboured the dream of joining the IAF, ever since she was a child. Today, she is the 10th woman fighter pilot in India. That’s not all - she is the first one from her family as well.
Antara graduated last week from the Air Force Academy in Hyderabad, and is the only woman officer from her batch, who has been selected for this stream. Her advanced training will continue at the Air Force Station in Bidar and Kalaikunda.
Regional Public Relations Officer, Nagpur Region, Directorate of Public Relations congratulated Antara on her achievement
Flying Officer Antara Mehta, daughter of Ravi & Poonam Mehta becomes the first women Fighter Pilot frm #Nagpur & #Maharashtra at Combined Graduation Parade at Air Force Academy on 20June20. She is the only women officer in her batch selected for Fighter Stream.@SpokespersonMoD pic.twitter.com/G5eF2xTMqI
— PRO Defence Nagpur (@PRODefNgp) June 20, 2020
A passing out parade was organised at Dundigal, Hyderabad, where the ‘Wings’ and ‘Brevets’ were given to the cadets, who completed their Flying and Navigation training. Antara has been trained to fly the Pilatus PC7, and Kiran MK1 aircraft, which she flew as part of stage two at the Fighter Training Wing.
Antara had her share of hardships. She struggled to clear the Services Selection Board (SSB) exam twice, but didn’t give up, and the third time, she cracked it.
In 2015, the then Indian Defence Minister Late Manohar Parrikar had issued an approval to induct women as fighter pilots in the IAF. Bhawana Kanth, Mohana Singh, and Avani Chaturvedi were the first women to be inducted as women fighter pilots in the IAF. While six women received training for this position, only three could qualify for advanced levels.
Manohar Parrikar called it a ‘Red Letter Day’, when the three women pilots were inducted into the fighter stream, promoting avenues for more women to be a part of this wing.
Out of the three, Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth became the first woman fighter pilot to undertake a mission during the daytime.
(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)