First female commissioned officers of the Sri Lanka Air Force made history in the country when they carried top honors to become the country’s first ever pilots of the Air Force.
Pilot officer R T Weerawardana and Pilot Officer ADPL Gunerathne were also awarded the prestigious Flying Berets of the SLAF.
They had truly earned their wings.
It has been quite a journey from 1983 when the First Women’s Wing of the SLAF was inaugarated.
Prior to that, women have served in the Sri Lanka Air Force as volunteers since as far back as 1972.
In 1998, during the war, women were called upon to pilot transport planes – Wikipedia cites that 800 women applied for the 33 positions.
The legacy seems finally complete with the first two history making women pilots ever to have been awarded their wings in the annals of Sri Lanka Air Force.
What and why are they special?
For many reasons.
Every time a woman breaks through the glass, or the sonic boom as in this case, it calls for celebration because it is one less mountain to conquer.
For us women, the mountains to conquer and hills to overcome have always been a part of the landscape.
And we are doing it, one at a time.
Women pilots of Sri Lanka – the history –
Anusha Siriratne goes down in history as the first female aviator to be appointed a Captain with Sri Lankan Airlines.
She also led a full female crew on a flight from Colombo to Trichy in 2009.
Sri Lankan women have been qualifying as pilots, earning their wings but have not always ventured out with a career in avionics.
Although some do fly with Sri Lankan Airlines the national career, others have opted to fly for foreign based airlines and domestic operations in various capacities.
Unfortunately, there’s not much information available on Sri Lanka’s pioneering female aviators to enable us to discover the first ever female pilots in the country.
Women pilots – globally –
Women pilots have been powering national Air Force cadre across the world – women pilots have been in flying for a considerable period of time.
Anny Divya, the world’s youngest Indian pilot and the youngest female Indian pilot to fly a Boeing 777, is a classic example of how many women do overcome barriers and challenges in achieving their dream career.
Many others have raised the bar in creating opportunities for women to break barriers in the sky, previously thought of as impossible.
Women pilots – what they bring to aviation –
Women pilots have the same capabilities and functional capacity as men – but what sets the women apart is their ability to multi-task, take challenges calmly and perform greatly under pressure.
As mothers, most women daily fight battles that would make a dynamic career in the sky secondary – they constantly work through demanding schedules, often managing multiple tasks and rise to the challenge when requested to.
Even though they may fly planes in the sky and safely take flights across continents, when they go home at the end of a tiring work day, they are essentially mothers and wives, sisters and aunts, who what they have to do every day.
www.satynmag.com salutes all women in aviation – may they inspire other women to master the skies.