The Indian Air Force (IAF) is gearing up to showcase a breathtaking spectacle with a flypast featuring 51 aircraft during the Republic Day (R-Day) celebrations on Jan. 26 in New Delhi. This impressive lineup includes 29 fighter aircraft, 8 transport planes, 13 helicopters and one heritage aircraft.
Adding to the significance of the event, 15 women pilots of IAF will take command of various aircraft during the flypast, contributing to the display of prowess and skill. Notably, among these accomplished women pilots is the extraordinary talent from Mysuru, Coluvanda Punya Nanjappa, hailing from Coorg.
She will pilot the MiG-29 fighter jet, contributing to a captivating formation that will undoubtedly fill the hearts of the people in Mysuru and Coorg with immense pride. Punya Nanjappa’s achievement represents a remarkable moment, highlighting the strides made by women in IAF and adding to the grandeur of R-Day celebrations.
Punya Nanjappa stands out as a fighter pilot, a remarkable distinction for a woman with roots in Coorg, a region known for its deep association with defence forces.
Punya is the daughter of Coluvanda Anuradha Nanjappa, who served as a teacher at St. Joseph’s Central School, Vijayanagar, and late Coluvanda P. Bala Nanjappa, who held the position of Manager at Prabha Theatre. The family hails from Chambebellur in Virajpet taluk of Coorg district.
Desire to join NDA
Despite her strong desire to enter the National Defence Academy (NDA), she faced an obstacle as, at that time, the NDA was not open for women. Unfortunately, her dream of joining the NDA remained unfulfilled. However, the circumstances have changed now and women can enroll in NDA.
Nursing the ambition of becoming a pilot in the IAF, Punya Nanjappa’s unwavering ambition to join the elite force was ignited during an Air Show at the renowned Mysuru Dasara festival where she witnessed the captivating displays of prowess in the skies. In pursuit of this dream, Punya enrolled in the National Cadet Corps (NCC), laying the foundation for her journey towards becoming a pilot.
Tough test cleared
Following her academic pursuits, she took on the challenge of the Air Force Common Admission Test (AFCAT), a gateway for officer recruitment in the Flying Branch (Short Service Commission only). It is a nationwide examination with 3.5 lakh participants. Out of the 1,000 shortlisted candidates, Punya Nanjappa secured her place among the 135 selected individuals, marking a triumphant step towards her dream.
Subsequently, she took part in the IAF Service Selection Board Exam in Mysuru where 160 candidates from various States participated. Amidst stiff competition, Punya Nanjappa emerged as the sole candidate selected for piloting responsibilities. Passing the AFCAT in 2018, she later cleared the interview and medical test and was selected as a trainee pilot.
Undergoing rigorous training at the Indian Air Force Academy in Dundigal, Telangana, Punya Nanjappa has now become a proud fighter pilot in the IAF, entrusted with the responsibility of flying the MiG-29 fighter jet during the Republic Day (R-Day)celebrations.
On Jan. 26, Punya Nanjappa will be the sole fighter pilot from Karnataka, soaring through the skies with her skilled piloting of the jet. This accomplishment not only brings pride to the State of Karnataka but also specifically to Mysuru and Coorg.
The significance of this momentous occasion will be heightened as it will be witnessed by key dignitaries including President Droupadi Murmu, the Supreme Commander of India’s Defence Forces, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and India’s 2024 Republic Day guest, French President Emmanuel Macron.
The event is poised to be a remarkable showcase of India’s military prowess, featuring impressive displays by the Indian Army, Indian Air Force, and the Indian Navy.
Flying MiG-29 an unparalleled experience: Punya Nanjappa
My dream of many years is finally coming true and I couldn’t be happier to fly a MiG-29 fighter jet this Republic Day on Jan. 26. Sitting in the cockpit of a MiG-29 is an unparalleled experience and it brings me immense pride to be part of this extraordinary moment of India’s defense showcase, Punya Nanjappa told Star of Mysore.
Fulfilling my long-standing aspiration to fly an IAF fighter jet on Republic Day is a dream realized and I am overjoyed. My mother, too, shares in the pride of this accomplishment. I have conducted the rehearsals for the flight thrice, ensuring a flawless and awe-inspiring display, she said.
This Republic Day, with a significant focus on women’s empowerment by the Centre, numerous opportunities have opened up for women, myself included. Being part of this historic event underscores the strides made in empowering women and breaking barriers. I am grateful for the chance to contribute to this momentous occasion and showcase the capabilities of women in the Indian Air Force, Punya added.
No greater joy for a mother than this
There is no greater joy for a mother than this. What brings more happiness to a mother? I am absolutely thrilled that my daughter has been presented with this incredible opportunity. India has extended more opportunities to women on this Republic Day, to exhibit their strength and capabilities.
My daughter has faced numerous challenges to reach this point and even in the face of her father’s passing away, she remained resilient and did not succumb to the pain.
The aspiration to join the Indian Air Force had been ingrained in her from the very beginning and she was upset to leave me alone. But her passion to serve the country prevailed. I am filled with immense pride to see her fly the MiG-29. —Anuradha Nanjappa, Punya Nanjappa’s mother
Her journey has been far from easy
Punya Nanjappa is the embodiment of hard work and dedication. Despite the profound sorrow of losing her father, she stayed resolute in pursuing her aspirations and achieving her goals. This accomplishment is not just a source of pride for Mysuru but for Karnataka and Coorg. Her journey has been far from easy, marked by relentless effort and a strong resolve to attain her objectives. Her unwavering commitment to excellence is rewarded. —Rtn. A.N. Aiyanna, Past President, Rotary Midtown