March 23 - What better way for HLPFI to mark the recent International Women's Day, than with the news that the Indian Air Force's (IAF) Squadron Leader, Veena Saharan has become the first co-pilot to fly one of the IAF's largest aircraft, an Ilyushin-76.
The plane weighs almost 200 tons when fully loaded and can transport a main battle tank with relative ease over 5,000 km.
In some news reports, Veena has been jokingly referred to as a "mahout" of the IL-76 - whose nickname is Gajraj (or Elephant). She now has to complete 40 more hours of flying to take the pilot's seat.
Apparently, the IAF has 784 women officers-but none of them are fighter pilots and many have been flying transport aircraft like the AN-32s. Veena is the first to qualify for the IL-76.