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First woman fourth line service engineer for helicopters, 14 years in service
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career in IAF?
Priya first felt became acquainted with the patriotic stirrings within her at the age of nine, while attending a flag hoisting in her PWD colony along with her mother and sister. “I felt an indescribable rush when the national anthem played. I knew then that I had to work for the nation.”
What is your background?
An electrical engineer and aerospace standards auditor by qualification, Priya grew up in a small town near Coimbatore. “I come from a very middle-class family. I would have not crossed the southern peninsula of the country had I not joined the forces,” she says. “I have always been patriotic, and joining the IAF as an aeronautical engineer was the best decision of my life. No amount of money can buy you this uniform or the feeling that comes with wearing it,” says Priya with palpable pride. “And it sounds like a cliché, but if it came to that, I would happily die for my country,” she says.
“On the surface, it seems like a lot of fun. The officers’ mess, the parties and the promise of a good life. But to get to this lifestyle, one has to go through rigorous training, both mental and physical, and not everybody can withstand the indoctrination. That is why, I always say that this rank has to be earned.”
What is your job?
Wg Cdr K Maheshpriya specialises in twin-engine helicopters, the Mi-17s. Not only does she handle their periodical maintenance; she routinely strips opens choppers and overhauls engines within 90 days. “It is a machine after all; we have to be sure it flies well through its lifespan,” she says. “I’m constantly reminded of my responsibilities. The safety of the pilots and other people who fly in these machines are in our hands, after all,” she says.
Married to a mariner who joins her wherever she is posted, Maheshpriya is also a mother to nine-year-old twin boys. “I love the forces. When my sons grow up, I am ready to give both of them to the Army, Navy or Air Force, whoever will have them,” she says.