An Indian Air Force MiG-21 fighter aircraft crashed on the outskirts of Punjab's Muktsar district, 200 km south of Chandigarh, on Thursdayn afternoon, killing its 23-year-old pilot Flight Lieutenant Manu Akhouri.
A court of inquiry has been ordered into the crash, the seventh of an IAF aircraft this year.
Akhouri took off from Bhisiana airbase near Bathinda but lost radio contact with the base, an IAF official said on the condition of anonymity.
Eyewitnesses said the aircraft caught fire in the air near Bhalaiana village and hit a tree on the Muktsar-Bathinda highway. The wreckage could be seen scattered over a radius of around 100 metres.
The pilot's parachute, though open, had got stuck in the plane, the eyewitnesses said.
Local villagers said the pilot made two rounds over the village and flew close to the ground once.
“We believe the plane would have hit a bus that passed by just a few seconds earlier. The pilot changed the direction to save the bus,” said farmer Thana Singh.
Muktsar Deputy Commissioner Rajat Aggarwal said, “Obviously the pilot saved the village as he tried his best to fly over the inhabited area.