Indian Air Forces' helicopter display team 'Sarang' performs during the inauguration of the Aero India 2015 event at Yelhanka Air Base in Bengaluru on Wednesday. A PTI Photo
BENGALURU (PTI): Breaking yet another glass ceiling, two women officers have made their way into the IAF's much-heralded helicopter display team 'Sarang.'
Squadron Leader Deepika Misra and engineering officer Flight Lieutenant Sandeep Singh made their debut in the 'Aero India' air show here.
It was during her passing out parade at Air Force Academy in December 2006 that Deepika Misra, then a Flight Cadet, first fell in love with the aerobatic displays by the 'Surya Kirans' and 'Sarang', IAF's fixed-wing and rotary-wing aerobatic display teams respectively.
She imagined herself flying some day in either of the formation flying teams. Back then however, it seemed an impossible dream but she never gave up hope and prayed hard. She was commissioned in the helicopter stream and posted to a Chetak/Cheetah helicopter unit.
Women short service commissioned pilots were only permitted to fly these single engine helicopters then.
Deepika felt extremely lucky when in 2010, the IAF made a a major policy shift to allow conversion of women pilots to twin-engine category of medium to heavy-lift helicopters.
Having notched up nearly 1,600 hours on Chetak and Cheetah helicopters after her two stints at Bareilly and Udhampur, Deepika was more than ready when the opportunity came.
IAF had meanwhile also sought volunteers from amongst women helicopter pilots to join the Sarang Team.
She had no hesitation and promptly volunteered for the new challenge.
Deepika was among the first to be inducted into the indigenously-built Advanced Light Helicopter while a few others joined the Mi-8/Mi-17 class of helicopters. She joined the Sarang Unit last July. Her prayers were now answered.
In the process, she also became the first IAF woman pilot ever to join a formation display team, an official statement said.
Incdentally, Deepika's husband, Sqn Ldr Sourabh Kakkar, an aeronautical engineering officer was already posted to the Sarang unit and the couple would now be a team.
Deepika would not remain the only women officer in the Sarang outfit for long.
Flt Lt Sandeep, a lady engineering officer would soon join her in the Sarang unit.
Incidentally, 'Sarang' is the only second military helicopter display team in the world after 'Blue Eagles' - the British Royal Army Corps helicopter display team.
Having begun her conversion in right earnest, Sqn Ldr Deepika is nearing completion of her operational conversion before beginning her flying as a Sarang formation member.
Sarangs are the show-stoppers at the ongoing Aero India 2015.
For the present, Deepika is happy doing her role as the 'Safety Officer' of the team.
The two officers are hopeful that someday there will also be an all-women team in one of the ALH in the Sarang quartet.
As she steps out for her day's flying job, Deepika feels happy to tell Aalya, her bewildered four-year old daughter that she will look out for her from the sky.