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Indian Air Force to have first woman navigator


General image of women flying officers in the Indian Air Force. From the official website

NEW DELHI (BNS): The Indian Air Force has opened new frontiers for women officers. The force will have a woman navigator for the first time.

When young Kavita Barala from north Indian state of Rajasthan opted to become a navigator, she started a new chapter in the history of flying in India. IAF has around 700-odd woman officers most of them are pilots.

Under the rules, women are allowed to fly transport aircraft and helicopters. IAF is still to have women as fighter pilots. In most of the military aircraft, navigators are a crucial part of the crew.

IAF top brass claimed that doors for women to become navigators were always open but it so happened that nobody opted for it. Kavita's decision might set a trend, they hope. She has already made the beginning as two more woman cadets have opted for navigation after her.

Navigators form an important component of flying in military planes even though their roles have minimised in civil passenger aircraft. Most of the modern civil aircraft have two pilot cockpits where pilots rely on sophisticated flight computers for navigation.

But in military flying, navigators continue to play an important role. The IAF has particularly realised that navigators were an important component of cockpit. IAF An-32 transport aircraft has a four member crew which including pilot, co-pilot, navigator and flight engineer.

A navigatorís job is to assist the pilot in steering the aircraft. The big transport aircraft IL-76 is known as a navigator's aircraft. A navigator enhances the situational awareness of the crew in cockpit. Most of military flying is carried out in difficult environment and under various constraints.

Kavita Barala realises the importance of her job and she hopes to inspire others. She would be part of IAFís contingent at the Republic Day Parade on January 26. She is posted in Agra undergoing training for bombing and relief operations.

The women officers were now hoping that they would be able to fly combat aircraft in the future. But the ministry of defence has turned down a proposal for allowing women combat pilots. Military navigation is a specialised job and requires special training. The navigators play a crucial role in flight planning and the possible routes to reach the destination.

Senior IAF officers said it was good to see a woman opting to become a navigator and the development was a positive step.

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