Newdelhi 24.11.2019. The thrum of a hovering helicopter with a Minister on board was what hooked Shivangi, a wide-eyed 10-year-old from Bihar’s Muzzafarpur, to flying.
But then, as a regular moffusil girl born to a school teacher and a housewife, life moved on and she went on to graduate in mechanical engineering from the Sikkim-Manipal Institute of Technology.
While in college, a naval presentation made as part of a university entry scheme again stoked the latent desire in her to fly. She cleared the Service Selection Board (SSB) at Bhopal, but failed to get a call thanks to fewer vacancies.
A few months into her MTech at the Malaviya National Institute of Technology, Jaipur, she attended another SSB in Bengaluru and made the cut. That was in 2018. After a six-month-long Naval Orientation Course at the Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala, she spent another six months getting the hang of flying on a Pilatus basic trainer at the Air Force Academy (AFA).
The last six months were with the Kochi-based Indian Naval Air Squadron 550, known as ‘Flying Fish’, the alma mater of naval aviation in India, where she learnt to fly the Dornier maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
On December 2, Sub Lieutenant Shivangi will earn her ‘wings’, going down in history as the first-ever woman to steer an Indian naval aircraft to the skies.
“But she’s an altogether different person in the cockpit – a quick learner and an adept flyer,” vouches Lieutenant Commander Rahul Yadav, one of her instructors at INAS 550.
Before joining the Navy, Shivangi had only seen the sea in Goa as a tourist. “At Muzzafarpur, Navy meant sailing to people and naval aviation was unknown. Maybe now it will have better visibility,” she says.
This will be followed by another six months of mission-based flying in which she will get to learn to exploit the aircraft for its operational role. The bigger dream, however, is to eventually qualify to fly the P8I long-range maritime recce aircraft.
By December-end, two more women pilots of the Navy, Sub Lt. Shubhangi and Sub Lt. Divya will also get their wings at Yelahanka where they trained with the Air Force.
They will then join Shivangi and three other officers for the Dornier Operational Flight Training.