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IAF’s women skydivers jump to fame

Hindon (UP): It was a plummeting debut… the all-woman skydivers team of the Indian Air Force (IAF) announced their arrival with a 8,000-foot parajump from a transport plane flying over the air base here on the 79th Air Force Day.

Though IAF women have been part of the skydiving team, called Akash Ganga, for over a decade, this was the first time six women jumpers have come together to become a team, IAF officers said.

This achievement comes close on the heels of three women officers of IAF scaling the Mount Everest earlier this year.

“The scaling of Mount Everest by three of our women officers earlier this year as well as the spectacular debut of our six-member all-women skydiving team this very morning are indeed befitting tributes to the indomitable spirit of the air force,” IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne said in his address to the air warriors on the occasion.

The IAF has also planned to give a name for the all-women skydivers team, to differentiate them from the Akash Ganga team that usually comprises of men and women skydivers.

The leader of the all-woman team, Wing Commander Asha Jyothirmai, is a 560-jump veteran with 13 years of experience in parajumping.

An accounts officer in the IAF, having joined the force in 1997, she was introduced to the adventure sport by her husband Wing Commander E.K.N. Swaroop, an IAF skydiver himself.

The other members of the team are Squadron Leader Sangita Paulraj, Flight Lieutenant Priyanka Shadangi, Flight Lieutenant Nisha Goverdhan, Flight Lieutenant Rupal Thakur and Flight Lieutenant Priyanka Hooda.

Five of the IAF women officers, after their jump out of an AN-32 transport plane from 8,000 feet altitude, Saturday came together to form a “star” in the sky before opening up of their parachutes to land in the air base, in front of a cheering crowd gathered to witness the parade.

Sqn Ldr Paulraj is one who handles the camera for the team during the jumps and she captured the “star” formed by the other team members on Saturday too. She is an education officer in the IAF and has over 200 jumps to her credit.

The team was picked up in 2009 after this idea of an all-woman team germinated and Wing Cdr Jyothirmai was the obvious choice to lead the team, which then flew to Car Nicobar Island to train. The team has also done a 45-day specialised training in Arizona, US.

Its performance was lauded by many.

“All these achievements only go to prove that Indian woman are not just confined to the kitchen but now have reached the skies. I am confident that they will soon be flying combat planes too,” said 45-year-old Alka Kaushik, who had participated in the Army-organised Siachen trek in September this year.

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