Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rays of the Indian Sun…

Last week I was at an air show here featuring the USAF Thunderbirds demonstration team. A couple of years back I had also seen their naval team, the Blue Angels in action. And I loved the precision aerobatics of both teams. But each time I was reminded of the show I witnessed at NDA in Pune about 8 years back. By the Indian Air Force’s own demonstration team, the Suryakirans. They are probably not as publicised as the US teams but they are just as good. And not many are aware that they are one of just three 9 aircraft formations in the world, the others being the RAF Red Arrows and the Canadian Snowbirds.
But the reason why I am so proud of our team is not just because they are from India. It’s because they have achieved similar levels of perfection with a much older and far less capable aircraft. They fly the HAL built HJT-16 'Kiran' trainer aircraft which first flew in 1964. It has side by side seating which means the pilots on the right of the formation and those on the left have to sit in different seats. This makes judgement all the more tough when flying wingtip to wingtip. The aircraft controls are all analogue, and being a trainer, very simplistic. Compare this to the F-16 and the F-18 flown by the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels respectively. Both are current generation fly-by-wire combat aircraft with the latest in avionics, navigation and automation. While I greatly respect the men and women who fly these jets, I feel their job is a wee bit easier than what our pilots have to cope with.
So if any of you ever get a chance, get a dose of the Suryakirans. These are men who are risking their lives to entertain us when they are not risking it defending us. I promise you an experience you will always cherish. And just as a teaser, check them out on
YouTube for an idea of how good they are.

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