M A I N   N E W S

Jaguar wreckage, body of one pilot found
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 3
The body of one of the pilots and the wreckage of the two deep-penetration fighter aircraft, Jaguar, which went missing during a sortie, was today found in Sonamarg valley, well inside the Indian side of the LoC.

A Court of Inquiry has been constituted to go into the reasons for the mishap, an IAF spokesperson said, adding that the preliminary indications are that the mishap occurred due to bad weather.

He said flight data recorder of one of the aircraft has been recovered and the rescue team was proceeding to the second accident site to recover the wreckage.

According to sources, one of the killed pilots had been identified as Flt Lt Gagan Oberoi. He hailed from Ambala.

The team was looking for the other pilot in the snow covered area, the spokesperson said adding that the rescuers would be camping on the spot for the night and begin the search operation tomorrow.

Some members of the search and rescue team will be para-dropped as the terrain is inhospitable, the spokesperson said.

While one wreckage was found three kilometre North of Sonamarg, another was found about 1.5 km away from the first site.

As the wreckage have been found at an altitude of over 4000 metres in North Kashmir, inhospitable terrain for helicopter to land, an army rescue team has been despatched to retrieve it.

He said IAF helicopters located the wreckage of the two deep penetration strike aircraft strewn over an area of one km near wind-swept snowy peaks between Sonamarg and Gund, with the terrain not having any space for choppers to land.

The spokesperson said Army rescue teams consisting of professional mountaineers from the High Altitude Warfare School have been despatched to retrieve the wreckage and locate the body of the second pilot.

“The helicopter pilots sighted parts of the aircraft strewn on deep snow amidst rocky patches and there was no space to allow the choppers to land and investigate,” the spokesman said.

However, he said the choppers would guide the rescue teams to the crash site.

The war planes, along with two other Jaguars were on formation valley training exercises yesterday when they entered an area of strong turbulence. While two Jaguar pilots managed to pull their aircraft out of turbulence and return to their base at Ambala in Haryana, the other two aircraft lost contact with ground control.

Asked whether the pilots were carrying out exercise during bad weather condition, the spokesperson said the IAF does not carry out exercise during bad weather. However, there was sudden change in weather in the area, which resulted in the mishap.

The massive search and rescue operation launched by the IAF, Army and local police had to be called off on Friday due to failing light and bad weather which also prevented use of helicopters in the rescue operations.

In 1999, two Jaguar aircraft collided mid-air during a similar exercise which was later attributed to pilot error by a Court of Inquiry.

The deep-penetration Jaguar fleet of IAF is currently undergoing major upgradation at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

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