Monthly Archives: March 2010

Getting Supersonic

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At the tail-end of 1967 I was holding the post of Operations 1 at HQ Western Air Command and I had been off fighters for a long time.    For the year 1965, I was in the RAF Staff College at Andover in Hampshire, England.   When I came back, I had a short one year stint with the Bullets. The unit was engaged in a conversion training role.

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Gnat Scramble

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I had joined the Panthers in November 1963 as a Flight Commander and had needed just twenty eight days to be declared operational on type.    Therefore, my story today must have been set on a cold Sunday morning early in December 1963 .   I do not have my logbook handy at this moment so I cannot quote the exact date.   Tradition demanded that I get rostered for a holiday stint at the ORP (Operational Readiness Platform) as soon I get declared operational on type.  I claimed no exception for myself; I found myself on the ORP on that Sunday.   By chance, the other pilot on duty was the other new flight commander, Reggie Upot.  We were no strangers to each other.     He was my instructor when I was a pupil in the Flying Instructors’ school, and he was my CO when he was commanding the FIS and I was his Chief Ground Instructor.   He was now my senior colleague.

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Chiefie Irani

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 The Air Force – like any other vibrant organization – is filled with people of various types.    There are some who are predictable; you can always guess what they are going to say or do or not do.    There are some who are hard to remember when they move away from your active contact.   There are those who will always irritate you or drive you to desperation.  And then there are those who you will never ever forget even if you have met them but once.   Chiefie Irani was one of the last variety. Read the rest of this entry

My Time With the Panthers

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My time with the Battle Axes came to an end rather abruptly.   In 1963, the Air Force started expanding rather quickly.   The Flying academies were churning out pilots at a furious rate.   The Hunter and the Mystere squadrons were overflowing with pilots.   The Toofani and the Vampire units had become mere transit stations.   The lone Marut Squadron was having a lot of teething trouble.

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Hari Om Sharma

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 The situation in Ladakh was tense.  The time was early summer of 1962.   The Chinese were publishing new maps every other day, pushing forward their claims on our territory.    We were not in a position to man the border in strength.   Krishna Menon, our new Raksha Mantri, had opted for a ‘Forward Posture’ in the sector.  Read the rest of this entry

Farewell Roxy

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Monday the 14th of May 1962 was the beginning of a week like any other in that professionally busy time of ours.   I was then the Chief Ground Instructor (CGI) of the Flying Instructor’s School (FIS) located at Tambaram.   I had just upgraded my instructional category to ‘A1’ – the highest instructional category available in the Air Force.   I had just been commended for my performance by the Chief of the Air Staff.   I had just become the proud father of another baby girl, my second.   My wife Leena and the two kids and my mother who used to stay with me were all doing well.  I was therefore a happy man at that time. Read the rest of this entry

Gethomitis Delux

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Of the many hazards that a young military pilot faces in his day to day life, the affliction called gethomitis is of serious concern.   It generally afflicts a pilot who is young and is perhaps lonely; and alas a single seat pilot is often lonely, especially on long cross-country ferry flights of single aircraft.    Of all the instances of gethomitis that I have heard of, most took place under such circumstances.   In the story I am about to narrate today,   I was also a young, newly married pilot ferrying a Harvard T6G from Tambaram to Kanpur and another one back to Tambaram.   It was perhaps in late October or early November of 1960. Read the rest of this entry

Caught in a Cog at Coimbatore

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 In 1960 I was a QFI (Qualified Flying Instructor) with 12 Bengal Air NCC Squadron.    My unit was attached to Jadavpur University.  Our cadets flew with the Bengal Flying Club at Barrackpore.   At that time, Air Force Station Barrackpore was a fairly busy place.    Read the rest of this entry

Tigermoths to Safdarjung

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 Every tale stands on some facts, directly or indirectly.   Some of these facts reside quite far away from the locale of the story.   Some others seem totally unrelated to the proponents of the tale but are still closely related to the story itself.   My tale today starts with a sad accident.   On 5th May 1958 a two seat Vampire NF 10 flying out of Palam had an engine failure.   The pilot, Flight Lieutenant OP Gera, tried a dead-stick landing at Safdarjung.   He did not make it though.  He and his Navigator Fg Offr AS Kohli were both killed.   The aircraft crashed into a hanger on the airfield and wrote off most of the aircraft parked inside.   For the Air Force, it was just another sad accident; a Cat E / Fatal due to technical failure.   For the Delhi Flying Club however, it was a disaster.    The bulk of its assets were reduced to ashes.   In the India of the fifties, getting hold of a replacement for a light aircraft lost to an accident was not easy.   Read the rest of this entry