Tue. Nov 24th, 2020

Two women officers, Rangana Weerawardhana and Pavithra Gunaratne, have been commissioned as pilots in the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) earlier this week. The pilots who completed their training at the Dundigal-based Air Force Academy near Hyderabad last year, became the first women military pilots in Sri Lanka.

Expressing gratitude to the Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday, Weerawardhana said, “Becoming a military pilot was a childhood dream. We never thought we would get an opportunity to pursue flying training at AFA, Hyderabad. We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to IAF for helping us achieve our dreams,”

India on Wednesday congratulated the Sri Lankan officers for their commission on November 16 and tweeted:

 While speaking about her training with IAF, Weerawardhana also mentioned touring to Pune where the officers saw the IAF’s Sukhoi-30 fighter planes for the first time. Watching the Su-30 and other fighter aircraft was like a dream come true, Weerawardhana said, further adding that her training at AFA has “strengthened our resolve to become military pilots,” Hindustan Times reported.

In a statement, the SLAF said that Pilot Officer ADPL Gunaratne and Pilot Officer Weerawardhana became “the first Lady Officers to be awarded the prestigious Flying Brevet and be the pioneering female military aviators of Sri Lanka for the first time in the history of the force,” Colombo Gazette reported. Weerwardhana, however, also became the first woman in SLAF’s history to command a parade at the commissioning parade on November 16 at the SLAF Academy in China Bay. The pilot officer was also awarded the Sword of Honour for outstanding all-round performance.

One of the two female officers commissioned, Weerwardhana was also awarded the Sword of Honour for outstanding all-round performance.

Visiting India

Recalling their experiences with the IAF instructors, Gunaratne said, “The speciality of military flying is to achieve expected levels of performance in a limited time. These levels cannot be achieved individually.” She said that India has given them “perfect guidance” and the instructors raised their “confidence”.

“We should also not forget the contribution of the methodical training programme towards the performance of the student,” Gunaratne hailed.

In November 2009, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s niece Madini Chandradasa created history as the co-pilot in Sri Lanka’s first all-female commercial flight crew, The New Indian Express reported. Chandradasa and another pilot Anusha Siriratne had operated a Sri Lankan Airlines flight from Colombo to Trichy.

Feature Image Credit: Hindustan Times

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