|A photo of Flight Lt. Harita Kaur Deol. ...daily.bhaskar.com|
|Avro HS 748 trainer Aircraft. www.aircraftresourcecenter.com|
Harita Kaur Deol (1972 – December 25, 1996), a pilot with the Indian Air Force, became the first woman pilot to fly solo in the Indian Air Force. She did this extraordinary feat on 2 September, 1994 in an Avro HS-748 and that time she was just 22 years old. After taking off into the sky she played hide and seek with the moving mystic clouds at an altitude of 10,000 feet and made history on that day and brought in laurels for the entire women's world, thus proving that women are equally competent and courageous as men are. Mind you as mentioned before, she was just too young to achieve this success.
Unfortunately as the saying goes "He, who is to be hanged, shall never be drowned'' the fate had it that 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 on Dec. 25, 1996.
Being a native of Chandigarh, Punjab, India she came from the Sikh community whose members follow the teachings of saint Guru Nanak. The Sikhs are supposedly great warriors and stand for their integrity and dedication. Miss Deol became one of first seven women cadets inducted into the Air Force as Short Service Commission (SSC) officer at a time when the defense department needed trained pilots for transport planes. As part of training, she along with other cadets, underwent training in various aspects of air transportation at Air Force Academy, Dundigul near Hyderabad. She received additional training at Air Lift Forces Training Establishment (ALFTE) at Yelahanka Air Force Station, near Bangalore, Karnataka.
Upon landing at the air force base after her historical first solo in the air, she received applause and congratulations from a cross section of people. Being casual as she was, she was never overwhelmed by her feat and said, ''I am happy I was the first to do a solo and that I lived up to the expectations of my instructor,” Her stint in the Indian Airlines, her experience as a transport pilot and her ability in making sorties and necessary tricky maneuvers in the sky helped her complete the solo successfully. According to her trainer Air Commodore P.R. Kumar, Air-Officer-in Command at Air Lift Forces Training Establishment (ALFTE), Yelahanka Air Force Station she had perfect take off and landing, more than the standard set by the Air Force.
Later in the same year Ms. Deol underwent final phase of training at Yelahanka Air Force station to be inducted as officer in the squadron service. The training was given on Avro and AN-32. On successful advanced training she was posted to at the Air Force Academy, Secunderabad, in December this year as commissioned officer.
Though this brave woman is not alive, lots of Indian women have derived inspiration from her hard work and bravery and are anxious to seek a carrier in Air Force in spite of dangers lurking in the shadow in such work.