For SGT Sneha M Chopda,a cadet in the city-based No.3 Maharashtra Air Squadron,National Cadet Corps (NCC),it was a dream come true on Friday when she undertook a solo sortie in a Zenair Microlite aircraft.
According to Wing Commander Puneet Sharma,who is the commanding officer of the unit,the move is part of its initiatives to prepare NCC cadets for the challenges of a career in the armed forces.
When asked about her experience,an ecstatic Chopda said,”I am thrilled,delighted and thankful to my commanding officer and other seniors for giving me the training and confidence to go ahead. Nothing beats the thrill of flying.” Chopda,who is currently in the second year of her graduation course at Fergusson College,aspires to join the Indian Air Force and had undergone around 15 days of rigourous training for the solo sortie.
“It was a determined effort by my commanding officer and his team,which involved flying at the National Defence Academy and Lohegaon Airbase,that resulted in my solo sortie. The support provided by the Airbase,led by Air Commodore K P Nair,was imperative,” she said. Wing Commander was the check pilot for the solo sortie,she added.
“Generally,NCC cadets are given only limited opportunities and experience in flying. We have attempted to raise the bar by providing extra training and permitting some of them to go solo,” he said. Chopda,who was airborne for around 35 minutes,executed a ‘flawless touchdown’ at the Lohegaon Airbase at 1.05 pm,Sharma said,adding that three other cadets Prachi G Dev,Pritesh Kadam and Pranjal Kulkarni had been trained and cleared to appear for solo checks during this week. “Sneha’s effort is indeed commendable. I am hopeful that the others will be also able to complete their respective solo sorties soon. After 10.30 am or so,wind conditions may not always be conducive for flying a Microlite aircraft,especially as the cadets are relatively inexperienced,” said Sharma. Meanwhile,the unit is planning an air expedition within Maharashtra,which is aimed at introducing aviation to cadets hailing from small towns.