A young Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot, Flight Lieutenant Manu Akhouri, Danapur, was killed on Thursday when a MiG 21 fighter aircraft crashed about 20 km from Bhatinda airbase in Muktsar district in Punjab. He was the only son of Col (Retired) Sanjay Akhouri of JOB Sub Area station headquarters.
He had taken off from the Bhatinda airbase on a routine training sortie and was returning to the base for landing when the mishap occurred, an IAF official informed the bereaved family.
This is the eighth IAF plane crash this year and Akhouri is the fifth fighter pilot to die in an air mishap and the third MiG-21 crash this year. A court of inquiry has been ordered into the mishap, the IAF official said. Senior officials of IAF, police and officials of Muktsar civil administration have rushed to the spot.
The incident occurred at Bhisiana village on Muktsar-Bhatinda road at 14:17 IST, said the family members of Akhouri.
The victim’s father, a native of Daltonganj in Jharkhand, had retired from the post of Adm Commandant of JOB Sub Area on August 31 and still resides with his family in the Army area at Danapur. Soon after getting the news the entire family went into sobs and a pall of gloom descended the official quarter of Col Akhouri. Senior army officials of Sub Area, Bihar Regimental Centre and Zonal Recruiting Ofice rushed to express condolence to the brave pilot’s family. His body would arrive at Bihta Airbase Station on Friday from where that would be brought to his family.
IAF sources said that earlier MiG 21 had crashed in Chabua in Assam and the pilot had bailed out to safety on June 18. Another MiG-21 had crashed on May 27 near Jodhpur in Rajasthan. The first air crash this year took place at Bidar Airbase in Karnataka when a Surya Kiran aerobatic team pilot R S Dhaliwal was killed after a Kiran Mk II trainer crashed.
The IAF had a major setback when its frontline fighter aircraft Sukhoi 30 MKi crashed near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan on April 30 killing another fighter pilot R S Nara. An MiG-27 had crashed near Jodhpur on May 15 but the pilot bailed out safely.
Apart from these aircrafts, the IAF had also lost an AN-32 transport aircraft at Jorhat in Assam in which 11 armed forces personnel were killed on June 9. Another HPT-32 trainer had crashed near Medak in Andhra Pradesh on July 31 killing both fighter pilots.