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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Disabled pilot's dreams soar again

Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 22, 2012
First Published: 23:02 IST(22/12/2012) | Last Updated: 02:15 IST(23/12/2012)

RK Herojit Singh takes his name literally. As a child, Singh dreamt of becoming a fighter pilot. But that dream was cut short by a flying accident during training at the Indian Air Force (IAF) station in Hakimpet last year.

Destiny ejected him from a fighter jet cockpit to a wheelchair for life. But that could not cripple the 21-year-old Manipuri lad's fighting spirit.

Now, Singh is about to receive the best new year gift of his life - he will get to serve the IAF once again, although in a new role. Defence minister AK Antony and IAF chief marshal NAK Browne have brought some measure of comfort to Singh by letting him serve as a ground duty officer, calling his situation an "extremely special case".

Singh was paralysed from waist down due to spinal injuries sustained while ejecting from a training jet just weeks before he was slated to join the IAF as a fighter pilot. He was adjudged 'the most accomplished flight cadet' of his batch.

Singh, who was undergoing treatment at a military hospital near Pune, surprised Browne one day with an unusual request. He wanted to return to the Air Force.

But there was a hurdle. He was not medically fit to be retained, although his intellectual and motor skills were intact.

Browne realised this was no ordinary man he was dealing with. It is men with a spirit like Singh that make the IAF a force to be reckoned with. The Air Force chief didn't want him to be just another statistic.

He shared Singh's story with Antony, seeking special approval to allow him to work for the IAF's accounts department. Antony made sure red tape didn't choke Singh's sense of purpose.

Anthony passed orders that Singh should be inducted in IAF's accounts department after six months training at the Air Force Academy in Dundigal.

Singh begins his training on January 13.

"We never leave our people or our equipment behind. Herojit's case reinforces our vision: People first, mission always," Browne told HT.

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