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Crash kills two pilots

The Indian Air Force (IAF)'s aerobatic team ?Suryakiran? lost two senior pilots when a plane crashed during an exercise near the base in this north Karnataka town on Saturday morning.

india Updated: Mar 19, 2006 13:22 IST

The Indian Air Force (IAF)'s aerobatic team ‘Suryakiran’ lost two senior pilots when a plane crashed during an exercise near the base in this north Karnataka town on Saturday morning.

Wing Commander Dheeraj Bhatia and Squadron Leader Shaildendra Singh lost their lives in the first ever crash for the aerobatic team ‘Suryakiran’, formed a decade ago. The two, both in their early 30’s, were to perform their act in Chandigarh next Sunday, as part of the IAF's induction-related publicity rallies. The show has not yet been postponed.

The indigenously built Kiran MK II trainer jet crashed into a redgram (Tur Dal) field behind the S.B. Patil Dental College, Naubad, on the outskirts of Bidar, with the pilots steering the aircraft away from college campus and a colony nearby. The blackbox was recovered from the spot later on.

According to Shankar, a photographer who was an eyewitness to the incident, three planes were seen engaged in aerobatics. The tail fin of one jet hit another.

The IAF denied this. “It was not a mid-air collision. The aircraft was seen veering away from the three-plane formation before it crashed,” IAF spokesman Wing Commander V.M. Raghunath said.

The two pilots, along with four others in two more Kiran aircraft, were possibly on one of the last practice sorties before the Chandigarh show. They were to fly out of their base on Tuesday.

Singh had recently joined the formation, while Bhatia had taken part in air shows abroad. "In the past year or so, the formation had performed in Singapore, Dubai and Sri Lanka, among other places," an IAF officer said. Both were in the “master green pilot” category, meaning they were among the best in the country.

Aircraft that are part of the Surya Kiran formation are also considered to be among the best serviceable in the country. There have been incidents of these aircraft crashing as well though.

Two had crashed in 2001 and one more had crashed in 2003. On December 27 last year, a Kiran Mark I had crashed near Mysore. The pilots had bailed out safely.

First Published: Mar 19, 2006 13:22 IST