Todd Nelson, the 36-year-old pilot of F/A-18 E Super Hornet on Friday commended Tata group Chairman Ratan Tata for doing a great job at the controls as a co-pilot in flying the multi-role combat fighter of Boeing Corporation.
"Tata did a great job when he was in control of the aircraft. He enjoyed flying it and was impressed of its cockpit. The fighter was very responsive and smooth during the hour-long sortie," Nelson told reporters after landing at the Yelahanka base of the Indian Air Force (IAF), venue of the international air-show (Aero India 2007).
With 69-year-old Tata in the rear of the tandem-seater twin-engine aircraft, the Super Hornet crossed the sound barrier cruising at Mach-1 speed for a while and flew above 10,000 feet, covering a distance of 50-60 nautical miles in the south-north direction of Bangalore.
"During the flight, we were in touch and talked about the aircraft. Tata was appreciative of the canopy and the great view he had from the cockpit. He was at controls for about 30 minutes," Nelson said.
Before the take-off, Tata had gone through a pre-flight briefing and medical check-up. He was made to familiarise with the fifth generation aircraft in the Boeing simulator on Thursday, located at the air base.
Boeing is also in the race with its F-18 for the IAF order of acquiring 126 multi-role combat aircraft to replace the latter's ageing Russian-built MiG-21 fleet.
As a trainer aircraft with the US Navy, based at Leemoore in California, the F-18 Tata flew is also used to train air force pilots, as its air force variant is in extensive use in countries such as Australia, Canada and Spain among others.
"The US navy has about 400 Super Hornets and about 700 of them are in operation the world over during the last seven years," Nelson, a veteran of F-18 for the last 12 years, recalled.
The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet was originally designed for the US Navy as a multi-role carrier based aircraft and its air force variant was developed subsequently for the US Air Force and other countries.
The Super Hornet offers a suite of integrated and networked system, providing an enhanced inter-operability, total force support for the combatant commander as well as troops on ground.
"The F-18 has day-and-night strike capability, with precision-guided weapons, anti-air warfare system, maritime strike, reconnaissance forward air control. It is powered by two General Electric F414-GE 400 engines, with unlimited angle of attack and care-free firing qualities for highly effective combat capability," a company official said.
The F-18 also provides the optimum value of advanced technology ad lower life-cycle costs to help ensure security and affordability for years to come.