For millions of viewers the spectacular flypast by the Indian Air Force is the most awaited event in the Republic Day parade, this year a group of professional gamers recreated it in the virtual world.
About 25 Indians from all walks of life ranging from students, doctors, businessman, engineers living in different corners of the country came together over VATSIM (Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network) on Monday and celebrated the 66th Republic Day flying different IAF aircraft over the India Gate.
One of the participant, a class 12 student from Delhi says he and the group have named their exercise as "Jai Ho."
In a coordinated exercise, the group flying 25 aircraft including MIG29s, BAE Hawks, and C17 Globe Masters began their flight from Leh airfield around 12 pm and reach Delhi at around 12.45pm.
“Since this is an online flight simulator, the aircraft in VATSIM takes exactly the same time as a real aircraft does. India’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) operates as close as possible to the real-life procedures, even utilising real-life weather, airport and route data,” Mirza Samnani, director, events and public relations, VATSIM India said.
“It took us about 45 minutes to reach Delhi from Leh cruising at about 680 knots,” Samnani said adding that the team have been regularly practicing for the past two weeks for the event.
When the team reached Delhi, they quickly came into formation with a subgroup making Delta formation and others following the same flight path above the India Gate. After the flypast, the aircraft headed to Jaisalmer airport and landed for a brief break.
The whole team then headed to a Kargil airstrip, where they ended the exercise. It took the team about four hours to start and complete the exercise.
Asked about how the novel idea of a Republic Day style flypast came about, Shrikar Galgali, a Class XII student said, “Since VATSIM is about multiplayer we thought of flying as military pilots and experience what fighter pilots experience during acrobatics and flypast events. A similar exercise was held on August 15 last year.”
Flight simulators are the closest one can experience to flying the actual aircraft. Talking about the level of realism of the virtual flypast event, Samnani said “We wanted to use the aircraft which are flown by the real world Indian Air Force and we came across the IRIS MIG29 which we tested and was used by some the pilots during the event.”
“Also we made a model matching so that all the pilots can see same the MIGs 29 which other pilots are flying around. Also we did 6-7 test flights to test the aircraft and how to perform on the day,” Samnani added.
For the team members the event was not all about a disciplined flying exercise. “Each participants enjoyed it. However, the fighter pilots who fly manually enjoyed it more than the airliners, which have autopilots,” Samnani said.
High on spirit, the team said it plan to hold the event annually as a tradition. “We will organise a more elaborate flypast exercise next year with more participants,” said Divya Patel, an engineer by profession and a participant.