KOCHI: The crash of a Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-built HJT-16 Kiran Mark-II aircraft of the Navy's Sagar Pawan aerobatic team during a formation flying show in Hyderabad on Wednesday was the first such incident for the famed four-aircraft formation flying team since its inception in 2003.
Both pilots, skipper Commander S.K. Maurya, 39, and co-pilot Lieutenant Commander Rahul Nair, 34, were killed in the crash. Commander Maurya, hailing from Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh, is survived by wife, and Lt Cdr Rahul Nair, from Delhi, leaves behind his wife and a three-year old son.
One of the two naval aerobatic teams in the world, the Goa-based Sagar Pawan, under Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 551 Phantoms, is known to have raised the bar of formation flying with its four-aircraft display and has kept a crash-free record since its first performance in Kochi in 2003. The team has executed over 100 shows since then. Commander S.K. Maurya, having joined the aerobatic team in 2004, had considerable experience in aerobatic display and was an ace pilot.
Rear Admiral Sudhir Pillai, Flag Officer Naval Aviation, was in Kochi on an official visit when the crash occurred. He left for Goa around noon and will lead the board of inquiry into the crash.
The Navy, in the meantime, has grounded its fleet of HJT-16 Kirans, both Mark I and Mark II variants, until the inquiry into the crash gets over. Commander Maurya and Lt Cdr Rahul Nair were part of the team during its last aerobatic show in Kochi in December 2008.