Solo Flight
The transformation of a cadet into an Air Warrior begins at the Air Force Academy

Flight Cadet Vaishnavi Chellapa fi
Flight Cadet Vaishnavi Chellapa

Training the next generation of Air Warriors is an onerous responsibility at Air Force Academy (AFA), Dundigal, and one taken very seriously by the instructors here. No detail is too small and nothing is overlooked, as the experienced instructors watch over their rookie flight cadets like hawks. As a military aviator, one requires a lifetime dedication to flying and taking to the air is a matter that one simply cannot take lightly.

While at AFA campus, FORCE spoke to the pilot trainees of the 193rd Pilots Course of the Indian Air Force (IAF), who are undergoing their Stage-1 flight training on the IAF’s brand new Pilatus PC-7 MkII Basic Trainer Aircraft (BTA). The training is exacting, meticulous and safety of the young cadets receives the highest priority without any exceptions. Before they all begin flying, cadets undergo a Technical Type Training (TETTRA) course for specialised training on the PC-7 MkII, which lasts up to a week to 10 days. Following this, the cadets are taken up in the air with an instructor for what is called a ‘FAM sortie’ or familiarisation sortie. This provides the cadet an understanding of the local flying area, and it is their first experience airborne in a BTA.

Speaking to the trainees is a reminder of the incredible diversity that exists in the Indian armed forces. The first two lady cadets I spoke to hailed from Palanpur in Himachal Pradesh and Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, respectively. Flight Cadet Vaishnavi Chellappa became the first trainee of her course (193 Pilot Course which commenced on 1 July 2013) to go ‘Solo’ on the PC-7 MK II at AFA in August. At the time of speaking to her, she had completed 42 hours of flying including five hours of solo flying. Vaishnavi, who hails from Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu, says, “Flying is an adventure and a dream and I am lucky to have an opportunity to fulfil that dream.” Coming from an army background (her father retired as Colonel in May), she says that “the prestige, quality of life and how an officer carries his/herself” is the reason that attracted her to the IAF.
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