Twenty-six-year-old Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh of the Indian Air Force (IAF) created history in February 2019 when she became the youngest fully operational pilot on the MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft. She joined the Air Force Academy at Dundigal near Hyderabad in July 2016 and got commissioned in the fighter streams in December 2017 and today flies the IAF’s Rafale fighter.
Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh was one of 20 women achievers who have played a significant role in the Indian aviation sector. These women achievers were felicitated by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in association with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Industry (FICCI) at a function in Delhi on March 16 for their contribution to the Indian aviation sector. Speaking at the “Women’s Achievements in the Indian Aviation Sector” function, Minister of Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya M. Scindia said that women were pursuing careers as aircraft engineers, pilots, firefighters, ground crew, airport security, and so on, registering their presence in the aviation industry. Scindia disclosed that 15 per cent of pilots in India were women, which, incidentally, is thrice the global average.
Said Scindia: “But this 15 per cent is not good enough as women have surpassed various odds and stereotypes and I firmly believe there must come a day that this 15 per cent must reach 50 per cent of our pilot strength in our country. For this to be achieved, we must start from having easy access to STEM [acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math] education for our young girls in their early education.”
The Minister stressed that the success of women in aviation was not confined to airports or airplanes but to a much larger aviation ecosystem.
Added the Minister: “In next decade, the backbone of Indian infrastructure is going to be civil aviation, which transports roughly 144 million people and has a growth potential double that of the Indian Railways. Therefore, there is a need to train more pilots.”
The Minister announced that the government will come out with a new Flying Training Organisation (FTO) policy through which nine new FTOs will be established in five cities. This, the Minister explained, will help in reducing the outflow of foreign exchange incurred in training Indian commercial pilots abroad and would also unleash another avenue for Indian women to participate in a greater measure in the civil aviation sector.
Besides Scindia, other dignitaries at the felicitation ceremony included Rajiv Bansal, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation; Usha Padhee, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation; Ashmita Sethi, Co-Chairman, FICCI Aviation Committee and Managing Director of Pratt & Whitney India; and Radha Bhatia, president, Women in Aviation–India Chapter. The ceremony was also attended by the members of Women in Aviation International–India Chapter.
Besides Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh, the other women achievers honoured were Neerja Sodhi, Capt. Kunjal Bhatt, Shital Mahajan Rane, Dr Sarita Ahlawat, Captain Nivedita Bhasin (Retd), Neelu Khatri, Captain Anushree Varma, Tulsi Nowlakha Mirchandaney, Ritika Modi, Sophiya Anil, Bini T.I., Captain Mayuri Deshmukh, Captain Ashima Mendiratta, Captain Neha Malhotra, Kanika Tekriwal, Lieutenant Commander Pushpa Pandey, Kiranjeet Jain, M. Sathiyavathy, Parul Kulshreshtha, Lieutenant Commander Swati Bhandari, Captain Zoya Aggarwal, Captain Vandita Verma, Yasmin Ali, Lucky Verrma Bhasker, Bibiana Audreydas, Charulatha Pasupuleti, Gayathri Venkateswaran, Geeta Gauba and Jyoti Dhingra.