stereotype of men being the defenders of the nation
has been broken by the Pakistan Air Force. In an
apparent move to end gender discrimination in the
defense services, PAF is now training a batch of
10 lady pilot cadets.
The winged ladies of PAF are currently undergoing
training along with their male counterparts at Risalpur.
The PAF took the lead over the Army and Navy to
induct women in combat units. The first batch of
female pilots is expected to graduate from the PAF
Academy Risalpur in April 2006.
These young ladies joined the 116 and 117 Batch
of General Duty Pilots. Of the 10 included in the
first two batches, four have completed primary flight
training on Mushak aircraft and are now flying T-37
jet aircraft. They are Saba Khan, Nadia, Saira Batool
and Mariam Khalid.
PAF has implemented the directives issued by Benazir
Bhutto during her second tenure as prime minister
to end gender discrimination in the forces and induct
“Air Chief Marshal Abbas Khattak was then
the Air Chief and he said that he was ready to be
the first chief to induct women in the air force.
The other service chiefs have also agreed to follow
PAF’s example,” said former defense
minister Aftab Shaban Mirani.
After successfully completing training at Risalpur
the lady pilot cadets will be sent either to the
Fighter Conversion Unit at Mianwali or the Transport
Conversion Unit at Chaklala, based on their skills,
abilities and aptitude, as is the case for their
Analysts believe that women pilots, like men, come
in a variety of shapes, sizes and capabilities,
ranging from superb to barely adequate and it is
the job of leadership and air force systems to do
Studies within the PAF command have been made to
assess the feasibility of women pilots, particularly
those who are undergoing training at Risalpur. The
batch was inducted on an experimental basis. Further
inductions were stopped to assess the success or
failure of the existing group.
When the PAF opened its doors for females it initially
wanted them to be involved with traditional roles
and not to fly aircraft or be involved in combat.
In 1977, lady officers were included for the first
time in the branch of education. Prior to that only
lady doctors were serving.
The regular induction of lady officers in other
branches such as engineering, administration, information
technology, logistics, legal, accounts and meteorology
started in the 1990s.
The PAF’s director public relations, Air Commodore
Sarfraz Khan, said, “The lady officers have
adjusted well in the working culture of the PAF
and are performing to the best of their capabilities.”
He said that out of the total strength of officers
approximately three per cent were lady officers.
Induction of ladies in the College of Aeronautical
Engineering and College of Flying Training, Risalpur
started a few years back, he added.
“Presently there are 18 lady aviation cadets
undergoing training at PAF Academy Risalpur. Eight
of them are becoming aeronautical engineers and
10 are at different stages of flight training,”
The PAF does not make much distinction between the
genders during training as the lady aviation cadets
undergo as rigorous a training schedule as do their
male counterparts. The training exercises are geared
to improve the cadets’ muscular strength,
endurance, flexibility, agility, and coordination.
Inclusion of women in air forces around the globe
have shown that to pilot a modern day fighter it
takes training and skill, not excessive strength
and that training and skill are not gender specific.
Technological improvements in aircraft and control
system design during the years have removed the
requirement for fighter pilots to possess a lot
of physical strength.
According to officials at Risalpur, in some instances
like academics, the female cadets performed better
than their male colleagues.
Commandant PAF Academy Risalpur, Air Vice Marshal
Inamullah Khan said that allowing women to enroll
had been a good experience and some of the female
cadets had done better than expected.
Though a lot of ground has been covered by the PAF
in ending gender discrimination, a degree of segregation
is maintained in the messes and the cadets mix with
their colleagues only in the classrooms or the training
areas in view of what the officials say are religio-cultural
sensitivities. (Courtesy Dawn)