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Friday, November 27, 2009
PRESIDENT, THE SUPREME COMMANDER - I FELT LIKE I REACHED THE SKY WITHIN A FRACTION OF A SECOND
HISTORIC FLIGHT - 1. President Pratibha Patil becomes the first woman president in the world to fly in a fighter aircraft.
2. The flight in Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft lasted 22 minutes, touching a speed of up to 850 kmph at a height of 2.7 km from the airfield
3. Experienced gravitational force up to level 2G
4.‘Aim was to boost morale of defence services’
Wearing an olive green G-suit and the cap of the No 30 Squadron (the Rhinos), President Pratibha Patil looked confident when she got into the cockpit of the Sukhoi-30 MKI at the Air Force’s (IAF) Lohegaon air base here on Wednesday. She looked equally confident after the historic flight. “I felt like I reached the sky within a fraction of a second. It was a thoroughly inspiring feeling, a wonderful and unique experience,” said Patil after becoming the world’s first woman president to fly in a fighter aircraft.
Patil’s sortie in the IAF’s most potent multi-role twinseater combat aircraft lasted 22 minutes — touching a speed of up to 850 kmph at a height of 2.7 km from the airfield. Wing Commander S Sajan, who piloted the aircraft, said, “The President experienced gravitational force of level 2G.” ‘G’ is the gravitational force that acts against the body weight and density while flying in fighter jets especially at supersonic speed, which refers to more than the speed of sound, that is 1 Mach or 1,000 kmph and above. Fighter pilots are trained to take a maximum of 9G.
Sajan said, “The President was, in fact, so comfortable with the flight that she asked me whether we can go beyond the originally profiled flight speed of 700 kmph. I did so by accelerating up to 850 kmph.”
After covering a specified navigation route over Rajgurunagar, Shirur and Baramati — all places located within a radius of 100-odd km around Pune city — Patil’s aircraft was joined by two Su-30 MKIs carrying Military Secretary (MS) Lt Gen Vinod Chopra and Deputy Military Secretary (DMS) Air Commodore Pravin Bhat.
The three aircraft flew in a ‘Vic’ formation, creating the impression of a trident in the air, while on their approach to the airfield. As they passed overhead, the three aircraft streamed fuel and peeled off in separate directions for their circuit approach and landing.
The 74-year-old Patil equalled the feat of her illustrious predecessor APJ Abdul Kalam, who had undertaken a similar sortie in the Su-30 MKI from the Lohegaon air base on June 8, 2006. While there are instances of the heads of states flying in fighter aircraft, no woman head of state across the world had performed such a feat in the past, said an IAF official.
President Pratibha Patil looked excited after her historic flight in the Sukhoi-30 MKI at the Lohegaon air base here on Wednesday. At the post-flight briefing, she said, “I was confident right from the beginning about undertaking this sortie. There were no apprehensions whatsoever among those, who were associated with this exercise. Yes, there was some excitement.”
The commander-in-chief of the Indian armed forces said, “I did this (sortie) with an objective of boosting the morale of our defence forces and expressing solidarity with them not just as the President but also on behalf of all the people in our country.” Patil said, “I feel totally reassured today that our defence forces, especially the pilots, have the skill and the expertise and are well equipped to protect our nation. I was familiarised with the manouverability of this technologically advanced aircraft and I could see our pilots’ knowhow and skill during this experience. Every Indian should feel proud about their ability and spirit of sacrifice. I have all admiration for them.”
About her mid-air communication with the pilot, Patil said, “Wg Cdr Sajan was constantly updating me about the flight path and the sites on ground. As we passed Rajgurunagar, he asked me whether I would like to manoeuvre the aircraft. I manoeuvred the plane twice towards the left and twice to the right and once each in an upward and downward direction before we were joined by the other two aicraft.”
President Pratibha Patil entering the cockpit of the Sukhoi-30 at the Lohegaon air force base in Pune on Wednesday
(SOURCE : TIMES OF INDIA)