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The Gutsy Women Pilots of Indian Air Force

Content Written by Cdr. S Prakash, Dir. Cavalier

Squadron Leader Veena Saharan, Squadron Leader Teji Uppal and Squadron Leader Nidhi Handa are the three women pilots at the 12 Wing Air Force Station, Chandigarh, who have some of the rare achievements to their credit.

Incidentally, all these three officers were also batch mates at the Air Force Academy who got commissioned into the Transport stream in December 2002.

Squadron Leader Teji Uppal achieved the rare feat when she landed AN-32 transport aircraft, a twin-engine turboprop, at Daulat Beg Oldie, an advanced landing ground (ALG) located at an elevation of 15,400 feet about mean sea level (MSL) just a few kilometers away from the Line of Actual Control in Leh.

She is among the select group of women pilots who have been operating in high altitude areas which required specialised training of northern sector on various missions. Married to an Army officer who is posted in Srinagar, she has a four year old son.

Squadron Leader Veena Saharan became the first woman pilot to land heavy lift transport aircraft IL-76 at Leh airfield.

The heavy aircraft was opened to woman pilots for flying only recently and she was among the first to graduate to the type after having flown smaller AN-32s.

Squadron Leader Nidhi Handa, the first woman pilot in IAF from Himachal Pradesh, in a short career span of six years, to reach the B-Green category which allows her to captain an aircraft in all the roles in every sector of the country.

She was in the forefront in the recently carried out evacuation mission at Jammu and Kshmit. About 1700 stranded passengers including civilians and army men were airlifted from the region.
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