After the ‘Pipping Ceremony’ the Reviewing Officer gave away awards to the Flying Officers who excelled in various disciplines of training. Flying Officer Arunabha Chakraborty from the Flying Branch was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’ and President’s Plaque for standing First in Overall Merit in the Pilots’ Course. Flying Officer Aayush Pandey and Flying Officer Purnendu Kumar Singh were awarded President’s Plaque for being first in Overall Merit in Navigation and Ground Duty branches respectively. The recipient of President’s Plaque and Sword of Honour, who was the cynosure of all eyes on Saturday, didn’t leave his mother’s side even for a minute. As soon as he marched off from the parade ground at the Air Force Academy in Dundigal, Flying Officer Arunabha Chakraborty (21) emotionally hugged his mother, Alaka Chakraborty, a homemaker in Agartala, the capital city of Tripura. Her eyes welled up after seeing her son’s shoulders decorated with the air force ‘stripes’. As a child, Flying Officer Chakraborty was fascinated by aeroplanes and always dreamt of touching the skies. “Flying was my fascination since childhood and my parents encouraged my passion,” the 21-year-old fighter pilot said.
After primary education in Agartala, Chakraborty bagged a seat at the Rashtriya Indian Military College, Dehradun, and later passed from the National Defence Academy, Pune. “Now, I have 130 hours of flying experience,” he said with a wide smile. Even when Chief of the Air Staff Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria congratulated him on the sidelines of the event, the newly-inducted officer stayed close to his mother and even introduced her to the IAF chief. Asked if the Rafale entices him, the youngster said he likes to fly Jaguar and Sukhoi fighter jets. Flying Officer Arti Tomar, the only woman fighter pilot in the batch, said her senior in engineering college, Avani Chaturvedi, one of the three first women fighter pilots of the force, inspired her to join the IAF.
Her close pal, Har Raj Kaur Boparai, a transport pilot from Patiala in Punjab, revealed that she never liked her desk job at Deloitte and always wanted to serve the nation as armed force officer. “I look forward to serving the nation with pride — a rookie turned into an air warrior, a metaphorical transformation by itself,” she said.