Tejas grounded in Bhopal, AAI officials remain mum

  • Mujeeb Faruqui, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
  • Updated: Aug 24, 2016 09:26 IST
Raja Bhoj airport crew cover IAF fighter jet Tejas’ cockpit with two layers of tarpaulin raising suspicion of leakage on Tuesday. (Mujeeb Faruqui//HT photo)

It was an unusual sight at Raja Bhoj airport in Bhopal on Tuesday afternoon, when the ground staff rushed in panic to cover the cockpit of a Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) apparently to prevent water leakage into the plane.

The fighter jet – one of the first two Tejas aircraft that were handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) for formation of the new ‘Flying Daggers 45’ squadron – was on its way from Pathankot to Bangalore, and landed at the Bhopal airport at 11:30 am for re-fuelling.

However, it did not take off as it started raining, and was towed to the state hanger at 4.21 pm. An airforce official told HT that the light combat aircraft was grounded because of bad weather.

Rain started minutes after the aircraft’s landing in Bhopal. The airport ground staff and some IAF men immediately rushed to the aircraft and tried to cover the cockpit with a yellow tarpaulin.

When the rain stopped, the two pilots of the high-profile LCA stood near the aircraft and ensured that the cockpit canopy was dried properly. But they looked nervous as it suddenly started raining heavily.

The two pilots insisted on another layer of tarpaulin to cover the cockpit. Later, another dark green tarpaulin was placed over it, as everyone had to ensure proper safety of the cockpit.

Photographers were not allowed to enter the airport to click photos of the LCA, which was a matter of “unparalleled pride and happiness” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s on the day of its induction.

Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials refused to comment on the grounding of the LCA. “We don’t know. Only the IAF officials can reply to your questions,” an AAI official said.

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