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A flier can never forget his first love

Sharath S. Srivatsa
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NOSTALGIC TRIP:Air Commodore (retd.) T.K. Sen cut his teeth on the Tiger Moth.
NOSTALGIC TRIP:Air Commodore (retd.) T.K. Sen cut his teeth on the Tiger Moth.

Among the thousands gathered at the Air Force Station Yelahanka to watch the air display at the Aero India 2013, was the septuagenarian Air Commodore (Retd.) T.K. Sen hoping that a tiny vintage aircraft would take off.

Watching the vintage Tiger Moth, resurrected by the Indian Air Force, brings back nostalgic memories for him ever since he flew the twin seater de Havilland DH 82 exactly 61 years ago. “I first flew the aircraft on February 9, 1952 when I was 17 and undergoing pilot training after joining the Indian Air Force,” he told The Hindu .

The lightweight craft is just right for novice pilots. “It used to fly so slowly that sometimes cars on the road below would overtake it!”

The vintage plane, made of wood and fabric on a light aluminium frame, has only indicators for speed, RPM and oil pressure and another large instrument for turn and slip. Interestingly, the main electrical switch that keeps the engine running is outside the cockpit. Refuelling is done manually.

The cute little aircraft was used by the Royal Air Force and the Indian Air Force to train their pilots. The IAF decommissioned it in 1954 but kept it flying till 1958. “We used maps to fly long distances,” Air Commodore Sen recollected.

“I was among the four pilots to fly the four Tiger Moths to the Delhi Flying School when the IAF gifted them as compensation after IAF’s Vampire aircraft crashed into the Delhi Airport hangar in 1958, destroying some of the school’s aircraft.” His last rendezvous with the aircraft was at Barrackpore while imparting flying training to NCC cadets in 1960.

The aircraft, he said, was capable of doing rolls, loops, stall twin, barrel roll and the spin, like any other.

However, Air Commodore Sen could not see his baby back on the sky as it has developed a technical snag. Taking a break from conversing with the pilots and the maintenance staff working on the little plane, he said: “For a fighter pilot, watching aircraft fly itself is joy. There are others in the sky today.”

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