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Fighter Tata flies F-16
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

To fly F-18 today

The sortie on the F-16 only seemed to have whetted Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata's appetite for more supersonic flight. A Boeing spokesman said that Tata would fly a Boeing F-18 Super Hornet fighter jet at 2 p.m. tomorrow. The Super Hornet is also in the race for the IAF's combat jet order.

Bangalore, February 8
Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata knows heights. But a sortie in a Lockheed Martin state-of-the-art F-16 fighter jet had him gushing about 'acceleration' and 'rolls in the air' and an exhilarating experience which he would opt for again, given a chance.

Wearing a brown g-suit over blue dungarees of the United States Air Force, Tata boarded the F-16 at the Aero-India air show here at around 1.30 p.m. His commander for the day and US Air Force Test Pilot Paul Hattendorf said Tata took around 10 minutes to familiarise himself with the fly-by-wire controls of the aircraft.

"He was a little apprehensive before take-off because of the unique view the F-16 cockpit delivers," Hattendorf told TNS, adding "I could tell when we were ready for take-off that there would not be any problem."

And there was no problem during the 40- minute flight, with Tata putting in a request to experience supersonic speed. "He flew most of the plane," said Hattendorf, who took control of the plane while executing aerobatic manoeuvres like 'aisle run rolls' and 'hot turns'.

There was non-stop conversation between the two pilots, with Hattendorf saying they mainly worked on the relationship angle, besides geographical references. "He (Tata) liked flying most at 500 feet above the ground because he said the sensation of travelling at 600 miles per hour was best reflected at this height," said the US test pilot.

Speaking about the handling of the aircraft by Tata, Hattendorf , who has flown the F-16 in Iraq, said, "Yes, he handled the aircraft well. He was not at all nervous during the flight. He wanted to fly. I gave the aircraft to him". When asked whether there was any difference between flying Tata and other co-pilots, the US test pilot said "there wasn't much difference until we got down and you guys mobbed us".

Tata was mobbed by 100 odd photographers and television crew immediately after he got off the plane, and the planned briefing had to be put off. The business tycoon faced a little difficulty getting off the plane and a special ladder had to be brought up for him. He looked a little tired and admitted as such later, but was at his charming best while receiving bouquets from well-wishers. "Great ride, great experience flying the F-16" were his immediate words after deplaning.

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