Air Marshal P. Kanakaraj, commanding-in-chief, maintenance command, Indian Air Force, was conferred the distinguished alumnus award for “excellence in public administration” at the National Institute of Technology, Tiruchi (NIT-T), here on Tuesday.

The marshal had passed out as a mechanical engineering student from REC (Regional Engineering College) (NIT was then known as REC) in 1977, went on to pursue post graduation in IIT Madras, and then joined the Indian Air Force.

A video tribute to him was played, following which S. Sundarrajan, director; NITT, conferred the award on Air Marshal Kanakaraj.

Replying to the felicitation, the Air Marshal recalled his days at the college and remembered the professors who helped him and observed how the locality and the college had changed over the years. He said he was more proud to be an alumnus rather than to receive the distinguished alumnus award.

Air Marshal Kanakaraj donated a MiG 23 aircraft to NIT-T and said that the aircraft must serve as a symbol to remind the students that professors work endlessly for their benefit. “The aircraft is an air warrior of the skies and is symbolic of your professors’ dedication. It serves to remind you that engineering is something you have to imbibe in your life; you have to be professionals,” he said.

A golden jubilee student plaza, titled MiGold Plaza, is soon to be developed in the area around the aircraft, placed near the department of architecture, NIT-T. The Air Marshal unveiled the foundation stone for the plaza in the presence of Mr. Sundarrajan and college faculty.

Interacting with students and answering questions posed by them, the marshal shared his experience of the Kargil war and the strategies that provide advantage at the time of war and spoke about indigenization of material required for air force machines. He doled out career guidance and expressed his views on the V.P. Singh allegations. He said that the postal ballots helped armed forces personnel cast votes, thanks to the Election Commission.

“Accidents in the Indian Army and Air Force are inevitable but good training and maintenance practices will ensure that they are reduced to a bare minimum,” he said.