Somewhere over Pune....

President Pratibha Patil made history when she became the first woman head of state to fly in a Sukhoi30 MKI. The 74-year-old President was the co-pilot of the commanding officer of the Sukhoi squadron at the Lohegaon Air Base, Wing Commander S Sajan -- thereby becoming the only Indian woman to fly in an IAF fighter jet. Unlike former President Kalam's flight in June 2006 three years ago, Patil's sortie did not enter the supersonic realm.
Minutes after she reached the cockpit, President Patil turned and flashed a "thumbs up" to the watching "Rhinos" squadron, other IAF personnel and spectators. She took every opportunity to wave -- as the aircraft taxied along the runway before takeoff and during takeoff. Two other Sukhois took off just before Patil, and the three jets staged a simple formation during the 25- minute sortie.
Patil's flight took off at 11 am; she flew at over 8,850 feet, at speeds ranging from 600 to 850 km per hour ­ a little less than the speed of sound. "I was familiar with the manoeuvring of the aircraft -- which is very sophisticated -- and I was instructed by the pilot on how to handle it," she said.
Ten minutes after landing, a cheerful Patil was seen waving again, also posing for photographs while shaking hands with Wing Commander Sajan, and patting him on the back.
Calling it a "unique and wonderful experience," she said, "We flew over a water body in Rajgurunagar and Shirur; we also saw the Baramati airbase."
Patil has been on a fitness regime. "I usually do yoga and treadmills. They also told me what precautions to take. I was quite confident."
Patil said the Sukhois would send a message that the country was well protected.

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