Retire Soviet-era fighter jets: Bereaved kin of Jammu-based IAF pilot

Updated on Jul 30, 2022 03:03 AM IST

IAF pilot flight lieutenant Advitiya Ba, who hails from Jinder Mehlu village, close to the Indo-Pak international border in the RS Pura sector of Jammu district, was killed when his jet crashed during a training sortie in Rajasthan’s Barmer

The bereaved family of 26-year-old flight lieutenant Advitiya Bal, who died after a twin-seater MiG-21 aircraft of the Indian Air Force crashed in Rajasthan’s Barmer on Thursday night, have urged the defence minister to immediately ground the Soviet-era fighter jets before another life is lost. (HT File)
The bereaved family of 26-year-old flight lieutenant Advitiya Bal, who died after a twin-seater MiG-21 aircraft of the Indian Air Force crashed in Rajasthan’s Barmer on Thursday night, have urged the defence minister to immediately ground the Soviet-era fighter jets before another life is lost. (HT File)

The bereaved family of 26-year-old flight lieutenant Advitiya Bal, who died after a twin-seater MiG-21 aircraft of the Indian Air Force crashed in Rajasthan’s Barmer on Thursday night, have urged the defence minister to immediately ground the Soviet-era fighter jets before another life is lost.

The IAF pilot’s uncle Kamaljeet Bal said, “We can only appeal the defence minister to stop using MiG 21 jets before another crash takes away yet another precious life,” he said.

Bal, who hails from Jinder Mehlu village, close to the Indo-Pak international border in the RS Pura sector of Jammu district, was killed when his jet crashed during a training sortie. Wing Commander M Rana of Himachal Pradesh was also killed in the crash.

“We are proud of him. He has brought fame to his village and all of Jammu. His father and I were in the army, and he, too, always dreamt of joining the armed forces as a fighter pilot. An alum of Sainik School, Nagrota, he was commissioned through the National Defence Academy (NDA) in 2014. He passed the Indian Air Force Academy, Hyderabad, in 2018. Though his dream has come true, he is not with us anymore,” said Kamaljeet Bal, who remembered Advitiya Bal as an energetic young man, charged with the idea of serving his country.

“Ours is a joint family. Advitiya is survived by his grandparents, parents, younger brother, apart from my family and I. It is an irreparable loss for our family,” he added.

Advitiya’s inconsolable mother Praveen Bal said, “I had spoken to him on Thursday afternoon. I had advised him to take a nap as her had to go on a training sortie. I wish he had not taken the sortie, as he would have been alive today.”

“My son was a saintly soul, a very simple boy and had never hurt anyone in his life. His maternal grandfather used to call him a sadhu. My son is gone now, and there seems to be no purpose to life anymore,” she added.

Over the years, the ageing MiG-21 aircrafts have come to be known as “flying coffins” because of frequent crashes. Since 1970, around 170 pilots and 40 civilians have been killed in MiG-21 accidents. The IAF will be retiring one more squadron of the MiG-21 Bison aircraft by September 30, and phase out the remaining fleet by 2025.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    A principal correspondent, Ravi Krishnan Khajuria is the bureau chief at Jammu. He covers politics, defence, crime, health and civic issues for Jammu city.

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