AERO INDIA 2013 Sarang, the only military helicopter aerobatics team, puts on a jaw-dropping air display

A second stint with the only military helicopter aerobatics team in the world has been different for Squadron Leader S. Pandey. Having served three years in the initial team of Sarang, the premier aerobatics team of the Indian Air Force, when it was formed in 2003 with three Advanced Light Helicopter to the now four ALHs, daredevil manoeuvres in air has seen changes.

“It was a daunting task when the team was being raised and a lot of hard work was involved. But now, we have a platform to perform, though manoeuvres have changed over time with the team graduating to four ALHs,” he told The Hindu during an interaction at the Aero India 2013.

The team goes through the 12 or 13 minutes of jaw-dropping air display with seeming ease, but it is the rigorous selection and training process that makes these manoeuvres earn acclaim time and again from spectators.

One of its kind

Led by Wing Commander R.C. Pathak, the 14-pilot team of Sarang is the only military helicopter aerobatics team, since the Blue Eagles of Royal Air Force stopped their act. Coimbatore-based Sarang is also the pride of the IAF now that the famed Surya Kiran aerobatics team has stopped performing.

The aerial manoeuvres, Sqn. Ldr. Pandey said, are changed each year. “We try to avoid tough manoeuvres as the audience may not like it. Officers on the ground watch the performance and decide what could appeal to the audience,” he added.

“It’s exciting to be a part of the team. Experience of going up in the air is completely exhilarating,” said another pilot Squadron Leader Sumedh Jamkar.

Karnataka connection

If Sqn. Ldr. Pandey is on his second tenure, the lone Kannadiga, 34-year old Prithvi Ponnappa from Srimangala in Kodagu, is the latest recruit.

He went through the selection process and has already completed 50 sorties with the team, and says one needs to be professionally sound to qualify. “I hope to be part of the air display in the next five to six months,” he said.

An addition in the wings?

Sarang, the team of four Advanced Light Helicopter of the Indian Air Force, is in all likelihood to be expanded with one more helicopter set to join the team in the aerobatics performance. “We started with three and graduated to four helicopters in 2005. Further expansion is in the conceptualisation stage and may become a reality in the next year. Manoeuvres have to be changed with the addition,” Squadron Leader S. Pandey, told The Hindu.

More In: Bangalore