London Olympic bronze medallist shuttler Saina Nehwal today experienced the thrill of flying in an Indian Air Force aircraft, and described the experience as "dream come true".
Saina flew in 'Kiran Jet Trainer' for about 20 minutes, after taking off from the training academy in Dindigul on the outskirts of the city.
"It's a great honour. It was dream come true for me to fly. Everyone in their childhood dream of joining either Air Force or Army. We dream of becoming one of them. I never thought I would get an opportunity to fly. It was such a great experience. This encourages me to do even better in badminton," Saina told reporters after the sortie.
Asked how she felt while on board, the ace badminton player said, "I was a little scared but when I was up I felt happy. He (the pilot) took me into the clouds...I was nervous but happy." Saina added that it was like a video game.
The pilot, Group captain, N Kapoor, who flew Saina, complimented her but said that she was initially nervous.
The ace shuttler was briefed about the nuances of flying and cockpit familiarisation before getting into the aircraft. She was the guest of honour at the closing ceremony of the sports week of the academy. The visit is aimed at inspiring the young cadets to achieve their goals.
In recent years, the IAF has been honouring sportspersons for their achievements in their respective fields and has granted them honorary ranks also. Sachin Tendulkar was made an honorary Group Captain by the IAF last year for his achievements and along with Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, was offered a sortie in frontline fighter aircraft SU-30MKI.
However, the offer made by then IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, has not been availed by the two cricketers so far.
Stating that she enjoyed herself thoroughly, Saina said, "I was a bit scared first because I never did that before but I was feeling good when I was in the sky. I really enjoyed. Sir (pilot) told me that I will take you in a fighter plane (next time)."
Replying to a query, Saina said it was when she was inside a cloud that she enjoyed the most while flying. Saina later watched an exhibition basketball match among the cadets of the Academy and also interacted with them.