Friday, May 10, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Jaguar crashes at Ambala
Flying Officer Pallarwal on routine flight dead
Tribune News Service

Ambala, May 9
On the heels of a MiG-21 crash in Jalandhar killing eight persons, a Jaguar aircraft crashed within the Air Force station here claiming the life of a fighter pilot.

The Jaguar reportedly was taking off on a routine flight when it crashed at the end of the runway.

The fighter aircraft is suspected to have developed technical problem during take off which led to the crash, killing the pilot Flying Officer S.Pallarwal. The aircraft is said to have turned into a fireball and it came to a halt at the end of the runway.

Eyewitnesses said that impact of the accident was such that a large patch of grass at the end of the runway had been scorched. Mangled remains of the Jaguar bore testimony to the impact of the crash.

“In the morning, we heard a loud explosion. At first we were flummoxed. When we went to the roof-top, we saw plumes of smoke coming from the Air Force station and flames had engulfed an aircraft at the end of the runway, an eyewitness residing in Baldev Nagar, Ambala City said.

He said that the incident took place at 8 am. “There was hectic activity soon after the accident. We saw a number of vehicles including fire tenders rushing to the accident site. The body of the pilot was taken away a short while after the accident, “he said.

Another eyewitness said that the fire tenders brought the fire under control after a shortwhile. “Even though the fire had been brought under control, there was a lot of smoke. Visibility after the accident became poor because of the smoke. However, we could make out that there was a lot of activity going on the airfield,” she said. “It was a terrifying experience for us, “she added.

Incidentally, the spot where the Jaguar crashed is a short distance away from the main periphery of the Air Force station. Houses have been constructed close to the main periphery in Baldev Nagar. Although we are now used to aircrafts flying close to our homes, the accident so close to the periphery is a nerve shattering experience since the fatalities could have been much higher if the aircraft had crashed in the thickly populated area, a local resident observed.

Senior Air Force Officers at the airbase refused to comment on the accident. They even refused to give the name of the pilot and the type of aircraft. While in the morning, Air Force Officials stated that the media would be given details in the afternoon, in the afternoon, they claimed that they had received no direction to give details about the crash.

The officials continued to be silent during a visit to the Air Force station.

The officials maintained that the information regarding the crash would be delivered from New Delhi.Back


Time for closer look at fleet
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 9
The death of Flying Officer S. Pallewal in a Jaguar fighter aircraft crash at the Ambala air base has put the onus on the Indian Air Force (IAF) to have a closer look at its entire fleet of aircraft.

Observers here feel that whether or not senior officers of the IAF agree, there are some shortcomings not only in the training of the pilots but also in the maintenance of the fighter aircraft which are the main strength of the country’s defence.

What is more alarming for the IAF is that the number of crashes have been on the rise every year. This despite the fact that the IAF has been stressing hard on more experience being provided to the pilots by allowing them more flying time.

The Jaguar fighter aircraft, which crashed this morning while still in its take-off path at the Ambala air base, is number nine in the series of IAF aircraft to have been lost during this year alone.

It is the fifth fighter aircraft to have gone down in the past one month and the second within a week, a number which is alarmingly high and which no air force anywhere in the world can afford.

Only last week the IAF, after the crash of one of its MiG-21 aircraft, had chosen to ground the entire fleet of the particular type. A special inquiry had been ordered to check on the engines of the MiG-21 BIS, the series from which the aircraft crashed on a bank building in Jalandhar.

After ordering a court of inquiry into the crash, would the IAF now also ground the fleet of its Jaguar aircraft as this particular type of aircraft are known to be very safe. But the manner in which the aircraft went down, without giving the pilot a chance to bail out, reflects the possibility of an engine failure, especially as it could not gain height from the runway.

The crashes which have been witnessed in the just over four months of this year also seems to be a record of sorts. Last year, which had also witnessed a number of crashes in these very first four months, the number was six, including the crash of an MiG-21 aircraft during exercises in the sweltering deserts of Rajasthan.

Incidentally, over the past four years the IAF has lost about four squadrons of MiG series of aircraft. Of this, more than two squadrons have just been of the MiG-21 fighter aircraft.Back

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