Historic helicopter-fighter joint display at Aero India

DH Exclusive | First-ever helicopter-and-fighter jet display at Aero India this year

Aero India is predominantly a trade fair this year

Credit: Special arrangement

India’s helicopter and fighter aircraft display teams are presenting their first-ever joint display at the Aero India show at the Yelahanka Air Force Station between Feb. 3 and 5.

Sarang, the four-helicopter display team, and Suryakiran, the nine-aircraft aerobatic team, will carry out a combined display for the first time.

Said to be the first global aero show to be conducted since the pandemic broke out, Aero India is predominantly a trade fair this year. However, a special attraction is the American B-1BLancer heavy bomber, which will fly by for the first time at the biennial air show.

The Suryakiran aerobatic team, known for their breathtaking manoeuvres, are set for a nine-aircraft display this year. There are 13 pilots on board this year. Wg Cdr Ajay Dasarathi, spoke exclusively to Deccan Herald, ahead of the show. “The team is flying the Hawk MK 132 British aircraft manufactured by HAL. It is also used as an advanced jet trainer in the Indian Air Force,” Wg Cdr Dasarathi told DH on Sunday.

The Suryakiran team have arrived at the Yelahanka Air Force Station. They strive to create new manoeuvres and this year is no different.“Our commentator and team administrator is a woman officer this time. With the entry of women into the fighter fleet, we look forward to having them as pilots,” said Wg Cdr Dasarathi.  

The team took extra measures to practise and stay safe during the pandemic. “Fitness plays an important role in the life of a fighter pilot. With the pandemic and the closure of gyms and parks, the pilots in the team had to innovate new methods of keeping fit in the confines of their homes. Additionally, in keeping with the tenets of the Indian Air Force, it was our bonhomie and esprit de corps that helped us cope and motivate each other to keep fit,” added Dasarathi.  

"Aerobatic flying is inherently demanding and dangerous," he explained. "It demands a lot of practice. This year, our biggest challenge was keeping our pilots and air warriors safe from Covid-19. This entailed a strict self-discipline regime." 

The main objective of the display is to showcase the proficiency of the fighter pilots, he said. Two aircraft are equipped with smoke pods and are used to jazz up the displays. "These pods improve the appeal of the display and help in formulating new manoeuvres," Dasarathi said, adding that all planes would soon have such pods.

Follow Suryakiran on Facebook @IAFsuryakiran, Instagram @suryakiran_iaf and Twitter @suryakiran_iaf.

A bit of history about the Suryakiran

Suryakiran, meaning rays of the sun in Sanskrit, are the formation aerobatic team of the IAF Airbase in Bidar, Karnataka. Raised in 1996 on the Kiran Mk II plane, the team had enthralled spectators in India and abroad till 2011. They didn’t perform for three years after that. In 2015, they were resurrected on the Hawk Mk 132 aircraft. Since then, Suryakiran built up from four planes to nine and are now known for their heart-stopping synchro manoeuvres.