Mirage crashes at HAL Airport, two pilots dead

The wreckage of the Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft on HAL Airport runway soon after take-off in Bengaluru on Friday.

A Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft on a test sortie crashed at the HAL Airport here on Friday morning, killing both the pilots. The pilots had ejected out but the parachutes caught fire, causing them fatal burns.

The pilots, Squadron Leaders Samir Abrol and Siddhartha Negi, were from the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) attached to the Indian Air Force (IAF). The Mirage 2000, upgraded by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), was on an acceptance sortie.

Thirty-one-year-old Sqn Ldr Negi, originally from Dehradun, was commissioned into the IAF in June 2009. A native of Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, Sqn Ldr Abrol, 33, was commissioned in June 2008, an IAF spokesperson said.

The crash occurred at 10.25 am, close to the Eastern wall of the HAL Airport, less than 500 metres away from the busy Old Airport Road leading to Marathahalli. Local youth from the neighbouring Yamalur village and employees from the nearby tech park were the first to reach the spot.

One of them, Brijesh, who runs a carpentry outlet close to the airport wall, said he and many others in the neighbourhood had rushed ahead. They heard a loud noise from the site, two parachutes up in flames and thick smoke billowing out of the entire area.

Even as they watched in horror, the two pilots had ejected out. As the aircraft lay in flames, the parachutes came down. “When we reached there, both the pilots were on the ground, about 50 metres apart. I could see one of them, almost completely burnt except for his face. There was only a faint sign of consciousness,” Brijesh recalled.

Sheikh Irfan, a canteen worker at an MNC at the tech park, recalled how the other pilot had his back completely burnt. “He was conscious, but blood was oozing out of his face. We tried our best to rescue them as two helicopters hovered above us. It took another 10 minutes for the fire extinguishers and the police to reach there.”

The entire episode was over in less than five minutes, said Irfan. But the smoke from the crash site was visible a kilometre away. Curious onlookers converged outside the airport wall in hundreds, triggering severe road congestion. The police had a tough time managing the crowd.

A French-made multi-role, single-engine fourth generation jet fighter, the Mirage 2000 is manufactured by Dassault Aviation. This is the second crash in a week for the IAF. On Monday, a Jaguar fighter had gone down in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, after catching fire mid-air. However, the pilot ejected safely.

The HAL, which owns and operates the airport, attributed the crash to a technical snag. The IAF has ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident.

It is learnt that HAL's test pilots had already taken the upgraded Mirage 2000 for six sorties before the IAF took over. The ill-fated flight was the second acceptance sortie for the aircraft.

Comments (+)