Udupi, Jun 17: India’s coffee cradle Chikkamagaluru has given South India’s first ever woman fighter pilot. Meghana Shanbhag was the only woman among the 113 flight cadets who graduated as flying officers of the Indian Air Force at the combined graduation parade at Telangana’s Dundigal yesterday.
She has joined the club of five other women fighter pilots of the IAF, who hail from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Meghana was born in Chikkamagaluru in a family of lawyers. Her father M K Ramesh is a practising lawyer and mother S C Shobha serves as a judge in the district consumer forum in Udupi. She had her schooling at Little Rock Indian School, a boarding school at Brahmavar, Udupi. She did her BE in Information Science and Engineering at the Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering, Mysuru in the 2011-15 batch.
After joining the flying branch of the Air Force Academy in January 2017, she was cleared for flying in the fighter stream in a trifurcation board in December 2017. She will be the sixth woman fighter pilot to be inducted into the IAF. The other five are north Indians. After her graduation in 2015, she did basic mountaineering course in Manali and trained in paragliding at Goa during 2016, before joining the Air Force.
A TV channel quoted the Meghana as saying that she got inspired to become a fighter pilot in June 2016 when she read the stories of Indian Air Force’s first fighter pilots Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh.