Female pilot dies as PAF trainer jet crashes near Mianwali

Published November 24, 2015
Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar. – courtesy PAF
Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar. – courtesy PAF

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar became the first female pilot to have died on a mission when a PAF trainer jet crashed near Kundian, Mianwali, Tuesday afternoon.

A PAF FT-7PG flown by Squadron Leader Saqib Abbasi and co-pilot Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar was on a routine operational training mission when it encountered an in-flight emergency during the final stages of the mission, said a PAF statement.

Remains of the crashed jet. – DawnNews screengrab.
Remains of the crashed jet. – DawnNews screengrab.

"Both pilots handled the emergency with professionalism and courage and tried to save the aircraft till the last minute, ensuring safety of property and the civilian population on the ground," read the statement.

Rescue officials gather debris from the crashed trainer jet. – DawnNews screengrab.
Rescue officials gather debris from the crashed trainer jet. – DawnNews screengrab.

They ejected from the aircraft and sustained injuries. They were being treated at a nearby military hospital, where Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar succumbed to her injuries.

Mukhtiar was 24 years old and hailed from Karachi.

In an interview with BBC early last year, Mukhtiar talked about the challenges of being a female pilot in a male-dominated environment.

Mukhtiar said she joined the air force because she was inspired by the "pomp" and wanted to do "something different."

She also said her mother had been concerned about her decision to join the force but had supported her throughout.

Pakistan is a highly traditional, patriarchal society where opportunities for women are limited.

But in 2006 seven women broke into one of the country's most exclusive male clubs to graduate as fighter pilots – perhaps the most prestigious job in the powerful military and for six decades closed to them.

It is unclear how many women have joined the air force as fighter pilots since then. A New York Times report in June put the figure at 21.

The crash is the latest deadly accident to hit Pakistan's military.

In May, a military helicopter carrying diplomats to inspect a tourism project crashed, killing seven people, including the ambassadors of Norway and Philippines.

In August, another military helicopter being used as an air ambulance crashed near the northern district of Mansehra, killing 12 people.

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