The IAF’s fighter pilots’ lobby may have initially had reservations about a helicopter pilot being named as the next chief. The reason? Air Marshal Fali Homi Major, who heads the Shillong-based Eastern Command, will be breaking a 75-year-old tradition of the IAF being led by pilots from the fighter stream.
But on Sunday, Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi chose to dispel the impression that there were any issues within the IAF over Major’s appointment. Giving thumbs up to Major’s appointment, Tyagi declared: “He (Major) is the best man for this job”.
Tyagi, who retires on March 31, also seemed to be eager to do his bit to help Major slip into his new role. The air chief made this more than evident at the International Seminar on Aerospace Power in Tomorrow’s World as he escorted Major and introduced to the chiefs of various air forces who have congregated in New Delhi for the event.
If body language is anything to go by, Major gave the impression that he is prepared for the challenges ahead. Keeping the theme of the seminar in mind, Major said he would pursue the creation of an aerospace command upon taking over.
Asked if the IAF’s depleting combat fleet would be a worrying factor, the air chief-designate brushed away concerns saying: “All nations face such a scenario at some stage. This really is no cause for concern. We must also remember buying an aircraft is different from buying a refrigerator. Systems have to be assessed thoroughly before a decision is taken.”
Commissioned into the IAF in December 1967, Major was awarded a Shaurya Chakra for a daring rescue mission in 1992 -- he and his crew winched 11 tourists stranded in a cable car at Timber Trail in Himachal Pradesh. He was decorated with the Vayu Sena Medal for gallantry during the IPKF operations in Sri Lanka.