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President flies in Sukoi, makes history

india Updated: Nov 25, 2009 20:54 IST
Satyajit Joshi
Satyajit Joshi
Hindustan Times
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Lohegaon air base of Indian Air Force was buzz with activities and excitement on Wednesday morning. However, President Pratibha Devisinh Patil (74), who smoothly set a record of being the first woman President in the world to take the skies in the world's unmatched fighter plane - Sukhoi - 30 MKI - was cool, calm and quiet even after her 30 minute sortie.

Top officials of IAF were busy for President's Sukhoi sortie for more than a month but everybody was happy when President was more than satisfied and found her comfortable and confident with the exercise. President's daughter - Jyoti Rathod, who stays in Pune was present along with her family at Lohegaon air port.

Accompanied by Air Chief Marshal P V Naik and Air Marshal P S Bhangu, President Pratibha Patil arrived at Lohegaon air base at 9.35 and accepted guard of honour. IAF officials again brief her about the sortie and Pratibha Patil started walking towards Sukhoi 30 MKI - in a specially made military green colored G-suit around 10.30 am. She was introduced to the staff and the plane took off at 10.55 am.

President was confident and comfortable when she climbed the staircase and waived hands to the staff and the media persons, who had gathered in large number. Before Sukhoi MI 130 took off, in which President was sitting, two Sukhoi planes took off to escort President's plane. Another plane also left after President's Sukhoi flew in the skies.

Pratibha Patil was in the skies for almost half an hour. Her plane landed around 11.28 am when she was again greeted by IAF officials and Presidential staff. Wing Commander S Sajan, who was pilot of President's plane, helped her to alight from the staircase.

"It was a wonderful and unique experience", said Pratibha Patil after her sortie. "I was familiarized with manoeuvreing of plane which was very sophisticated and technically advanced", said President.

President, who talked to media persons in G-suit, was comfortable, cool and quiet. "She felt as if she was going into skies in a second. I was inspired too much", Pratibha Patil said, adding that she was in sky 2200 meters high while the speed was gradually increased from 600 km per hour to more than 800 km per hour.

"I did maneuvers with the plane. Some times at left and right and even up and down for twice", President said. President's Sukhoi half round of Pune covering northern, western and eastern areas of the city during which she noticed villages like Rajgurunagar, Shirur and Baramati.

When asked whether there was apprehension among the people, close to her about her sortie, Pratibha Patil said it was not at all but there was certainly an excitement. "I was confident since beginning. So far as submarine is concerned, I will see when it comes", she said. President said she has been doing her regular exercise for years and was taking some special exercise for Sukhoi sortie.