An IAF MiG-21 ‘Bison’ fighter aircraft on Friday crashed apparently due to an engine problem while on a routine sortie in Madhya Pradesh’s Sheopur district but the pilot ejected safely.

The plane went down at 11:25 a.m. near Bela-Bhimlat village, about 150 km south-west of Gwalior air base after taking off from there, an IAF spokesperson said.

“The plane developed some engine problem. The pilot Squadron Leader Falguni Laha Roy managed to eject and landed safely on the ground,” he said.

A rescue helicopter was sent to fetch the pilot, the spokesman said, adding that a court of inquiry has been ordered into the incident. He said the crash took place in a forest area and there was no damage on the ground.

This is the first crash of a MiG series fighter aircraft this year. In 2010, a total of 10 IAF aircraft crashes took place including four MiG-27 and two MiG-21 planes. While two MiG-27 aircraft crashed in Hashimara in West Bengal, two other such war planes went down in Barmer in Rajasthan and Kalaikunda in West Bengal. The MiG-21s crashed in Bagdogra (West Bengal) and Halwara in Punjab.

Besides the fighter planes, the IAF also lost three helicopters last year — a Mi-17, a Mi-26 and one Chetak.

While in the February 16 Hashimara crash, the pilot had died, in the second crash in Hashimara on July 30, three people were killed on the ground but the pilot had ejected safely.

In the Mi-17 crash in Arunachal Pradesh, two pilots and 10 others on board were killed in November last year. One pilot and two crew members were killed in the Chetak crash in Leh on September 11 last year. There were no casualties in the Mi-26 crash in Jammu.

A Cheetah helicopter of the Army Aviation Corps crashed in a residential area in Nashik on February 2 this year, killing both its pilots but there was no casualty on the ground.