In a historic moment, Air Marshal Kulwant Singh Gill, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Central Air Command, flew a three aircraft close formation sortie on Hawk Mk132 with his son, Flying Officer Shahbeg Gill, also part of the same formation at the Bidar air force station in Karnataka on Saturday.
When Air Marshal Gill was asked as to how he felt flying a sortie with his son, he replied, “I can easily say that Indian Air Force is the elitist service in the world, that’s why I am leaving half of myself with the Air Force.” He said it was a historic moment for the Air Force and a proud and memorable moment for him. He wished to see more brave sons of the great land opting for flying and fighting for the nation.
When the father and son landed after the sortie, Ranjeet Gill, Shahbeg’s mother, was emotional as she said, “The two people dearest to me have flown together in a close formation and I cannot describe the feeling in words. Obviously, I am the proudest wife and mother.”
Air Marshal Gill hails from Patiala and is an alumnus of the local Mohindra College. He was commissioned into the flying branch of the Air Force in December 1977. In a career spanning 38 years, he has more than 7,000 hours of incident-free flying experience. While commanding the IAF station at Leh (world’s highest air field), he was instrumental in re-commissioning of two airfields. During his command, Air Force Station, Leh, was declared the Pride of Western Air Command.
For his distinguished service and exceptional professionalism, he has received three Presidential awards. In his earlier days, he has been the member of the 7th and 8th Antarctica Expedition, wherein for displaying extraordinary courage he was awarded with Vayusena Medal (gallantry) in 1990, Yudh Seva Medal in 2005 and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal in 2010.
He had also commanded Air Force Station, Patiala, from 1999 to 2001.
Air Marshal Gill is married to Ranjeet Gill, a homemaker. The couple have two daughters and a son. The son, Flying Officer Shahbeg Gill, is undergoing stage-III training in fighter stream. Ranjeet Gill is an alumna of St Fatima School, Patiala, and a graduate from GCG Patiala.
Flying Officer Shahbeg did his matriculation form St Peter’s School, Patiala, and Class 12 from Army Public School, Patiala. Flying Officer Gill says right form childhood he wanted to be like his father and today he has taken a major step towards that.
Another father-son sortie
In 2013, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, then Chief of the Air Staff, flew with his son, Squadron Leader Omar Browne, in Sukhoi-30 at Lohegaon airbase in Pune. It was the last sortie of Air Chief Marshal Browne.