President Pratibha Devisingh Patil created history on Wednesday by becoming the first serving female head of state to fly in an Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft from the Lohegaon Air Force Base in Pune. What was even more remarkable was the fact that she achieved the feat at the ripe age of 74.
Patil landed at the air force base after 22 minutes of flying.
The Indian Air Force had earlier chalked out a special rectangular navigation route for Patil's maiden sortie, which was originally scheduled to last for 30 minutes. The aircraft is said to have touched a maximum speed of 0.9 Mach (700 to 900 kmph).
President Patil was accompanied by award-winning Wing Commnader S Sajan, who has an experience of flying Sukhoi for 3,200 hours.
She thus becomes the second president to have flown in a Sukhoi after her predecessor A P J Abdul Kalam.
Kalam undertook his flight on June 8, 2006. That flight was positioned as a familiarisation flight, besides being an act to inspire the youth of the country to join the armed forces.In May 2004, former defence minister George Fernandes undertook a similar sortie, clocking 1.15 Mach (about 1,500 kmph). Fernandes, who was also in his early 70s, was exposed to a gravitational force of up to level 3G.