TAMIL NADU

Breathtaking display of precision flying

Kiran Mark-II aircraft of the Bidar-based Suryakiran aerobatic team performing a Vixen Break over the Marina in Chennai on Saturday. The Suryakirans' breathtaking formation flying display lasted eleven-and-a-half minutes.

Kiran Mark-II aircraft of the Bidar-based Suryakiran aerobatic team performing a Vixen Break over the Marina in Chennai on Saturday. The Suryakirans' breathtaking formation flying display lasted eleven-and-a-half minutes.  

CHENNAI Sept. 6. Almost the entire city headed east for the Marina, to watch a breathtaking display of precision flying, aerobatics and a spectacular demonstration of skydiving by the Indian Air Force here today.

The show commenced with two Chetak helicopters, flying at 35 nautical miles, showering flower petals on the VIPs and the audience, followed by three Chetak helicopters, flying the tri-colour and the IAF insignia.

Following this `ceremony', nine HPT-32 aircraft flew past in three `vic' formations of three aircraft each. This was followed by a small boy formation — an AN-32 sandwiched between two Dorniers.

Then, the `real' show began. The Kirans, the Iskaras, the Jaguars, the Su-30s and MiG-29 in rapid succession flew in formations over the beach, as people cheered wildly. The highlight of the fighter-bomber aircraft show was a dogfight over the Marina. In a simulated air raid over the Beach, two MiG-29s were intercepted by two Su-30s in a mock combat.

The IAF's Bidar-based formation aerobatics team, Suryakiran, flying today with nine Kiran Mark-2 aircraft, conjured up many formations, as people, including many children, cheered on the flyers. The planes flew with a separation of a mere five metres from each other, and, during the many manoeuvres, its pilots were subjected to alternating gravities, ranging from minus 1.5 to plus six times the normal.

``This is all about precision, lots of hard work, dedication, efficiency and, more than anything else, discipline,'' says the team's Commander, Wg. Cdr. S. Prabhakaran, who had put in over 4,000 hours on MiG-21s. The Suryakiran show lasted eleven and a half minutes.

The Air Chief, S. Krishnaswamy, pleased with the aerobatics team, said plans were afoot to send them abroad for shows as well. "They were to go earlier, but the Gulf war and our own Op Parakram delayed this. We have not decided the countries as yet. These will be worked out."

The show closed with the Agra-based Akash Ganga team's skydiving. An Mi helicopter `dropped off' the 15 divers at around 3,000 feet above the sea level. The divers, spreading their bodies like that of an eagle, fell at a steady speed of about 120 miles per hour. By changing body position and profile, the jumpers performed many acts such as turning looping, rolling forward and back. "The winds were slightly stronger than it was yesterday. But we have jumped here for a few days and hence did not have trouble," said Sanjay Thapar, the only adventure-jumper-turned instructor who has jumped in both the north and south poles. In a career spanning 21 years, he has `come down' from the skies over a 3,000 times. "We will also be coming to Mysore for Dusherra," he said. Show jumping was not the primary job of the team. The team did two displays a month, he said.

The Air Chief said such shows could be held in other cities in the State, if the IAF was invited. But this was an expensive and time-consuming proposition as the planes had to be flown in from bases in the north. The percentage of youth joining the force was less and hence, the show was part of the IAF effort to enthuse youth to join the force.

There was a small flaw at the beginning of the show. One of the three HPT-32 trainers in a `vic' formation, dipped dangerously low before joining back. "It was either a small bird or an air pocket. We will go back and find out." Pilots had been briefed that they should accord highest priority to safety, he said. "If there is a problem, we have told them to forget the show and take safety action," said the Senior Air Staff Officer, Training Command, Satish Jain.

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