Surya Kiran aircraft crashes in Bidar

ANOTHER PLANE CRASH: The wreckage of the Surya Kiran Air force plane which crashed in Bidar on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: GOPICHAND

Staff Correspondent

Two senior officers killed

First-ever crash involving Surya Kiran teamWreckage of the plane scattered over five acresBlack box has been retrieved from the spot

BIDAR (Karnataka): A Surya Kiran aircraft crashed here on Saturday morning, killing Wing Commander Dheeraj Bhatia of New Delhi and Squadron Leader Shailendra Singh of Dehra Dun. The accident took place around 9.20 a.m. This is the first-ever crash involving a Surya Kiran team.

The wreckage was scattered over five acres on a red gram field behind the S.B. Patil Dental College at Naubad on the Bidar-Gulbarga road. Villagers said they saw a ball of fire in the sky first and heard a thunder-like sound later. S.S. Jamshetty, a teacher, said the plane missed the college by 30 feet. Part of the wing was found on the campus.

Two other aircraft and the men flying them are safe.

Different versions

There are different versions on the accident. According to Shankar, an eyewitness, the three planes were engaged in aerobatics. "The tail of one plane hit the other. The damaged plane caught fire and fell down," he told The Hindu .

IAF sources do not deny that three planes were practising aerobatics.

However, they said one plane dived at over 450 km an hour. "The pilots probably failed to pull up," they added. They also hinted at the possibility of the pilots losing control over the aircraft.

"The officers flying the aircraft feared that it would crash into the college building or houses. They tried to prevent this happening. The officers also tried to jump out of the plane," sources said.

Flying at 100 feet

"They were flying only 100 feet above the ground. This height is so low that a pilot cannot use his parachute," a senior official said.

IAF sources said Mr. Bhatia had 11 years of experience and Mr. Singh was junior to him by five years. Mr. Singh was at the controls. A search and rescue team visited the spot. The black box has been retrieved.

Probe ordered

"It seems neither man nor machine was at fault."

This was how senior IAF officials described the crash. "Aerobatics is a risky business.

The reaction time is a fraction of a second. In all probability, therefore, it was an accident," the senior officials said.

"A court of inquiry has been ordered to determine the cause of the accident. There was no civilian casualty or damage to property on the ground," an IAF release said.