PUNE: President Pratibha Patil on Wednesday made history by taking off in a frontline Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet aircraft from the air force base here, becoming the first woman head of state to fly in a warplane. 74-year-old Patil also set a world record by becoming the oldest woman to be airborne in a combat jet for a 30-minute sortie at a speed close to the supersonic level.
A confident Patil, who sat in the co-pilot’s seat in the cockpit, waved to the people gathered at the airbase before taking off in the Sukhoi belonging to the 30 Squadron of IAF.
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The President donned a special ’G-suit’ worn by fighter pilots to counter gravitational effect due to any high speed air manoeuvres.
The flight has been designed specially for her with the aircraft being flown by Wing Commander S Sajan at sub-sonic speed of 0.9
Mach which is less than 1,000 km per hour whereas the supersonic levels start at Mach one, which is about 1,236 km per hour.
The sortie has been planned in a way that the President, who is also the Supreme Commander of Armed Forces, does not feel any discomfort during the sortie.
Former President A P J Abdul Kalam had also been flown in a Sukhoi-30 in 2006.