AFP, IANS /Bengaluru
Two Indian Air Force jets practising for an aerobatic display collided in mid-air yesterday killing one of the pilots, officials said.
Witnesses told how the aircraft spiralled out of control after hitting each other and crashed near a residential area outside the Yelahanka air base in Bengaluru.
A huge fireball rose into the sky, they added.
Only one civilian was hurt by flying debris however while two pilots who parachuted to safety also suffered injuries, officials said.
“One pilot died of fatal injuries and two other pilots ejected out of the two Hawk advanced jet trainers after they collided mid-air and crashed,” said an IAF statement.
An official investigation was immediately launched.
The two jets were to take part in a display by the Surya Kiran acrobatic display team on the first day of the Aero India show in Bengaluru today.
“Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi sustained fatal injuries while two other aircrew, Wing Commander V T Shelke and Squadron Leader T J Singh, ejected and were airlifted to Air Force Command Hospital in the city,” the IAF said in a statement.
The crash occurred around noon on the outskirts of the airbase in the northern part of the city in an open field close to a residential area.
Karnataka Director General of Police and chief of Fire and Emergency Services M N Reddi said there were no injuries to civilians on the ground.
“No major damage to any house in ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) colony. The Fire force has completely suppressed the fire,” Reddi tweeted.
The aircraft have been rehearsing at the airbase since February 14 for the five-day biennial 12th edition of Aero India expo, where global aerospace majors participate to showcase their technologies and products, including fighters, helicopters, military transport aircraft and passenger jets for civil airlines.
Yesterday’s collision is probably the first after the elite Surya Kiran unit was re-grouped in 2015 after a gap of four years but the show-stopping high-risk display flying arm of IAF has had its share of serious accidents.
Surya Kiran, used as a mascot for the IAF to inspire youngsters to take up military aviation, is in its second avatar flying subsonic advanced jet trainers Hawk 132 that made an appearance in new livery four years ago after replacing jaded Kiran Mk II intermediate jet trainers.
The Surya Kiran team with Kiran Mk II aircraft was wound up in 2011 but not before a series of accidents.
In January 2009, Wing Commander R S Dhaliwal died in a crash near Surya Kiran’s home base Bidar in Karnataka.
Another aircraft crashed in December 2007.
In March 2006, yet another crash took place in Bidar killing two pilots.
The British-origin Hawks are made in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). These are used to train pilots in advanced fighter flying skills.
Surya Kiran returned to Aero India air show in Bengaluru in 2017 after a gap of nearly four years.
The Indian Air Force has suffered regular crashes in recent years as it upgrades its ageing Soviet-era fleet.
Two pilots were killed after their jet crashed near Bengaluru on February 1.
India is investing billions of dollars modernising its air force to compete with China.
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