Bengaluru: After a Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft crashed on February 1 on the premises of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), in which two senior pilots lost their lives, there was a series of posts flooding the social media to shut down the company. Now, an anonymous HAL test pilot has shared his grief, saying he owes a clarification and apology to the 'Band of Brothers'.
"When a Mirage is overhauled, it is offered to us for flight testing. We test it rigorously and only when satisfied, hand the aircraft over to Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), which is the flight test agency of IAF. They put the aircraft through another series of tests and when they are satisfied, the aircraft goes to the field for operational utilisation.
The two-stage testing is to doubly ensure that the aircraft meets all parameters in the field," he writes.
"Our philosophy of testing is to believe that there is only one stage of testing. Therefore, we ensure that the aircraft meets all safety and performance parameters before we hand over to ASTE. In this particular case, we had finished testing and handed over the aircraft to ASTE. The first sortie flown by late Abrol had only three words of debrief over the phone 'everything ok sir'. The second sortie was to be flown with a target aircraft to check radar performance. A comparatively benign profile. The accident happened on take off roll," the letter reads.
While Squadron Leader Siddhartha Negi died at the crash site, Squadron Leader Samir Abrol died at Command Hospital later due to burns. The HAL pilot says he was impressed by HAL civilians who risked their lives to pull out the pilots from wreckage. He writes, "There could be any number of reasons ranging from technical defect, maintenance failure to pilot error. As of now, there are more questions than answers. One that the pilots will understand - how can an aircraft travel 6 markers with undercarriage up. Then go through barrier and a wall and explode. But I saw it happen. HV Thakur is conducting the Court of Inquiry (CoI). IAF will also conduct its own CoI. Hopefully truth will come out."
To those who have blamed the HAL for the accident, the pilot says one is not blaming a faceless organisation but the blame squarely lies on his shoulders, but he says he deserves a fair inquiry before being blamed.
"As far as HAL producing sub-standard aircraft, remember that we fly these aircraft to its limits before anyone from IAF touches it. That does not mean that everything is okay with the HAL. It only means that before an aircraft goes to IAF, its standards are good enough for me to bet my life on it. Remember, every pilot in IAF is also betting his life on my judgement," he ends....