The further on the edge, The hotter the intensity

Quick, who caught my song reference in the title? Niraj forwards us this article from the BBC about Pakistan’s recruitment of female fighter pilots. So hot.


The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) academy has been all-male for more than 55 years – but now it is going through major change.

Women are now allowed to enrol on its aerospace engineering and fighter pilot programmes and are doing rather well.

To the great surprise of many men, some of the female recruits will soon start flying jet-engine planes.

Male cadets are having to come to terms with the fact that masculinity itself is no longer a condition for reaching this prestigious institute.

But can women withstand the forces that maneuvering a fighter plane puts on one’s body, and perform as well as men? Of course. We KNOW they can from years of experience but it is insightful to point to the data.

Extended periods of hard labour and limited caloric intake are common military conditions. Maximum normal acceleration forces during combat have increased from peak averages of 5 g to 9 g. Besides physical strength, air combat manoeuvring requires significant g-tolerance. G tolerances of 102 women and 139 men were subjected to a Standard Medical Evaluation and the G Profiles were compared. Unpaired t-tests revealed that there was no significant difference between the women and men in either relaxed or straining G tolerance. Covariance analysis controlling for differences in tolerance due to age, height, weight, and activity status revealed that the women have marginally lower tolerance; the analysis also identified height as a factor having a strong negative influence on G tolerance, and weight as having a positive influence. When the women were matched only by height to the men in the comparison group, the women’s mean G tolerances were significantly lower than the men’s. On Standard Training G Profiles, 88% of 24 women and 80% of 213 men completed the runs, but this difference was not significant. G tolerances of 47 women were measured on the Medeval Profiles both during and between menses, but no significant differences related to menstruation were found

Basically this means that the best fighter pilots are short and stocky with a lot of muscle, because this body type tends not to pass out as easily when the blood get sucked from the brain. You want to minimize the distance between the heart and the brain. Without the benefit of a G-suit I’ve even become light headed even at 2.5-3 Gs.

Until recently, most women in this conservative Muslim society would more likely have imagined marrying a dashing fighter pilot than being encouraged to become one.

But this was not true for Saba Khan, one of four female cadets to make it through the gruelling first stages of training.

“I always wanted to be a fighter pilot, and eventually with Allah’s wish and the full support of my parents, I made it this far,” she said.

And Saba believes the first batch of women could provide much-needed inspiration for many other girls, who may follow suit.

Beaming with excitement, another aviation cadet, Ambreen Gill, said it was impossible for her to explain how she felt when she flew a propeller plane.

It’s telling that the only way to describe how a first flight feels is to declare it “impossible to explain.” More things should be like that. What about India? Does the IAF allow female fighter pilots? I can’t say for sure but I could not find mention of that career path on the IAF website. In the interest of detente, and one-upsmanship I wouldn’t be surprised if that soon changes.

Also, as long as we are on the topic of bad-ass South Asian pilots, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that NASA has one Indian Astronaut left in its corps after Kalpana Chawla passed away. Sunita Williams is a former Navy helicopter pilot:


Williams received her commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy from the United States Naval Academy in May 1987. After a six-month temporary assignment at the Naval Coastal System Command, she received her designation as a Basic Diving Officer and then reported to Naval Aviation Training Command. She was designated a Naval Aviator in July 1989. She then reported to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 3 for initial H46, Seaknight, training. Upon completion of this training, she was assigned to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 8 in Norfolk, Virginia, and made overseas deployments to the Mediterranean, Red Sea and the Persian Gulf in support of Desert Shield and Operation Provide Comfort. In September 1992 she was the Officer-in-Charge of an H-46 detachment sent to Miami, Florida for Hurricane Andrew Relief Operations onboard USS Sylvania. Williams was selected for United States Naval Test Pilot School and began the course in January 1993. After graduation in December 1993, she was assigned to the Rotary Wing Aircraft Test Directorate as an H-46 Project Officer, and V-22 Chase Pilot in the T-2. While there she was also assigned as the squadron Safety Officer and flew test flights in the SH-60B/F, UH-1, AH-1W, SH-2, VH-3, H-46, CH-53 and the H-57. In December 1995, she went back to the Naval Test Pilot School as an Instructor in the Rotary Wing Department and the schoolÂ’s Safety Officer. There she flew the UH-60, OH-6 and the OH-58. From there she was assigned to the USS Saipan (LHA-2), Norfolk, Virginia, as the Aircraft Handler and the Assistant Air Boss. Williams was deployed onboard USS Saipan when she was selected for the astronaut program. She has logged over 2300 flight hours in more than 30 different aircraft.

NEVER leave you wingmanwoman.

30 thoughts on “The further on the edge, The hotter the intensity

  1. “Communicating. Keeping up foreign relations. You know.”

    I can’t remember exactly how old I was when me and my friends watched this fine, fine film over again but it was young. It must have been the first contraband film we had access to so we milked it for what it was worth.

    There are some great Indian citations here–instead of Guiness we have Limca. Don’t know how reliable they are but I’ve found reference to Durba Bannerjee in several places:

    WR: First Commercial Women Pilot Prem Mathur (b. August 25, 1924) started flying in 1948 at Allahabad. She got her private pilot’s a license in 1951.On June 13,1951 she joined Deccan Airways at Hyderabad and flew DC-3c on their schedule flights. WR: Women pilot With most Flying Hours Capt. Durba banerjee, who started for aviation career flying a Dakota as an air Survey Pilot in 1959, joined Indian airlines in 1966. she retired on nov.30,1988 with 18,500 flying hours. WR: Youngest Commander Capt. Nivedita bhasin got her license when she was 16 and piloted Indian Airlines IC 192 (Boeing 737-200) on the Mumbai-aurangabad-udaipur sector on Jan. 1, 1990. she was also the youngest women glider pilot. WR: First All-Women Crew Capt. Saudamini Deshmukh, Co-pilot Nivedita Bhasin and two air hostesses created history when when they flew Indian Airlines IC 258 (Boeing 737-200) from silchar to Calcutta on Jan. 15, 1986.On sept. 16, 1989,they also piloted IC 169 jet flight (Boeing 737-200) on the Mumbai-Goa sector with 126 passengers. WR: Hijacked most times Devinder kumar Mehta, a flight purser with Indian Airlines, was hijacked thrice on three IA flights, the first time being in 1982. He Was also on a plane that crash-landed in 1965.

    I included the last non-female one b/c it’s sort of grimly funny. Can’t figure out if Durba Bannerjee’s Air Survey is a branch of the military or not.

    The IAF certainly has female pilots but I can’t find any fighter pilots, but I can’t find any fighter pilots either. I did find a TimesOfIndia article (sorry!) that indicates that Air Vice Marshal P S Ahluwalia needs to have a little talkin-to from you.

    Random Link I found of pr about the Royal Airforce sponsoring an Asian Music Award.(!)

  2. About five years ago, I discovered that when the Russians and Americans first started sending rockets into space, they sent monkeys up there to test everything. But those monkeys never came back down; they are still there in outer space, floating around. I cannot stop thinking of those monkeys. Imagine what a trip it must have been for the monkey to see planet Earth receding as he blasted off. They must have looked like this.

    They must have given him lots of bananas to eat up there. I wonder if he floated them about for a jokes and stuff. You know how cheeky and mischievous a monkey is on Earth. Can you imagine how naughty those monkeys must have been in zero gravity? I worry for those monkeys. Just remember, when you look up into the sky at night, and all those stars are shimmering so bright, always remember that there are monkeys up there in orbit looking down at us, protecting us.

    I bring this up because there is going to be another Indian in space, and I donÂ’t want her to be left around like the monkeys when they want on their space missions, because they are similar kind of things.

  3. Does anyone else think that Pakistani Pilotess at the top looks really sexy? With her uniform and helmet on? And the expression on her face? All dominant and pursed lips and sonic boom? I wouldnt stand a chance with her though because I am the enemy she would have been trained to take evasive action against Indian missile attacks and stuff.

  4. Does anyone else think that Pakistani Pilotess at the top looks really sexy? With her uniform and helmet on? And the expression on her face? All dominant and pursed lips and sonic boom? I wouldnt stand a chance with her though because I am the enemy she would have been trained to take evasive action against Indian missile attacks and stuff.

    OK, who’s going to make the first “ride tail” joke?

    This trailer repeats the foreign relations trick, only with a fully autonomous stealth fighter.

    No, Johnny Five! Bad! BAD!

  5. From the profile on NASA: SUNITA L. WILLIAMS (COMMANDER, USN)

    Abhi, you said:

    Sunita Williams is a former marine helicopter pilot

    Now I know you didn’t mean a Marine (USMC), but it may throw some people off.

  6. I wonder which is easier, to exclude prospectives (men and women) who cannot tolerate 5-9g acceleration forces or find a way to reduce the experienced force.

  7. Just for clarification:

    I meant to say CMDR Williams is NOT a Marine. She is USN.

    Even though the USMC is under the Dept. of Navy, the ranks are not naval (Ensign – Admiral), but Army (2nd Lt – General)

  8. Sorry. Its the effects of multi-tasking.

    No need for an apology. Readers should be thankful that you bloggers put the time and effort into Sepiamutiny. Was just trying to keep it “Legit”. And if TOI picks this one up, atleast they can get it right.

  9. Without the benefit of a G-suit IÂ’ve even become light headed even at 2.5-3 Gs.

    All this talk of pilots, G forces and space astronauts…Abhi are you some kind of pilot?

    (yes I know my powers of deduction are awesome).

  10. Who – Abhi “Top Gun” T.? He used to be, but after Tom Cruise played him in the movie version of his life story, he felt to embarassed to fly any more. Now he just uses the Microsoft Flight Simulator.

  11. Why yes, vurdlife I am a pilot. But I am many other things. Next month I will attend the South Asian Bar Association conference in DC and will introduce myself as a tort lawyer while mingling amongst the crowd. Once I worked as a security guard and was responsible for protecting Andre Agassi. In Blogistan I worked as a weapons expert on a mercenary team sent to capture a data server of blogs. I am many things to many people. Son, lover, blogger, scoundrel, and smut peddler. A trail of my many lives can be found strewn across the internet. Nobody can say for sure what is true and what is false.

    But…SnarkTheo is correct. For now my piloting days are behind me while my bank account runs on fumes. I hope to move on to other things though.

  12. Dude, I hope not. I was 25 at the time and she was 17. Mentor-student relationship. “Don’t stand so close to me.”

    15 minutes earlier she was puking her guts out (for over an hour) by the way. :)

  13. 15-year olds get to experience zero gravity (or some close approximation thereof)?!? Sheesh!! Where the hell was that when I was in high school?!?!

    Actually, I think it more looks like Abhi is trying to see how many steps he can walk down with his eyes closed. It’s like when Arjun was eating at night and the lamp blew out and he decided that if he can eat in the dark, he should be able to shoot in the dark. Except potentially much more embarrassing.

    Dude, am I misunderstanding, or are you guys using a cut up plastic trash bin covered up with cellphane to simulate a glove box?? Now that’s freakin’ cool! :-)

  14. Safety comes first at NASA. All expriments must be self contained by double walls. The trashcan creates a great second wall (and cheap). We are testing an experiment dealing with ferrofluids that I proposed in order to see if one can magnetically control the flow of fuel to a fuel intake in Zero G. The trash can is to prevent the fluid from floating around the cabin. The students build and run the experiment that the mentor proposes.

    Yes. I am looking down because I am clumsy and I didn’t want to pull a Gerald Ford. :)

  15. Great Vomit Comet photos!

    Next month I will attend the South Asian Bar Association conference in DC and will introduce myself as a tort lawyer…

    We rather hope you’ll introduce yourself to a lawyer tart.

  16. So I never did find references to desis in the Royal Airforce, but this makes me think there must be some. It’s #8 from today in pictures. It’s totally, like, Holi in Space! Alright, in the sky, but

    HOLI!! IN SPACE!!!!

    sounds better. Abhi, I hope you make this a reality one day.

    And damn Sepia Mutiny for not enabling font color html tags. :-p

    I kid because I love.

  17. The Indian Air Force has had female pilots for some time now.

    The article on the PAF throws around the word “fighter pilots” but they are basing that on them inducted to the PAF Academy. There is plenty of flying to be done that does not involve flying fighters.

    The real test remains flying in a combat zone, and in that sense, the IAF got to that state back in 1999. Gunjan Saxena flew in the Kargil Operations:

    Check out the captions on this page for more detail:

  18. hi salam0likum!!! duds i just wanna know can girls join pakistan airforce!!!!! if yes!!! so whats the procedure

  19. i luv pakistan and its defence.i want 2 know if girls can join pakistan army .if yes so whats the procedure

  20. girls come and join paf if u wanna enjoy ur life i heard pilots have been handling n fondling n kissing these poor ladies in the cockpits of the trainer aircraft i wonder wat al they had to go thru to come to this stage.i know some of their instructors who were very very horny when these 4 girls were showing off theirs curves in the academy.they look like full grown women now …. even before marriage …. rest is upto ur own dirty mind to imagine.

  21. Assalam-o-Aliekum to all,,,

    i wana serve my life for my Dear Homeland Pakistan…n i Love Pakistan Army…i wana join this field…i think this is the only Best field for girls in Pakistan where they can feel secure n Confident…

    i wana tell Ayesha Khan n Najda that girls can join Army n Air force easily if they want…seach website on google http://www.Pakistan …At this website u can read the whole procedure that how a Girl can join Arm forces…!!!