IJT crashes during test flight

after the mishap: The mangled remains of HAL’s Intermediate Jet Trainer which crashed near Lakshmipuram in Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu on  Thursday. dh Photos / shivanna

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) said that both the test pilots ejected to safety. The aircraft crashed into an uninhabited land injuring none.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, HAL Chairman Ashok Naik said: “The flight data recorder has been recovered and the process of retrieving the data will begin in a couple of days. We have ordered a court of inquiry to ascertain the cause of the mishap.”

The aircraft was piloted by Group Captain Mathur of NFTC and co-piloted by Wing Commander Patra of AFTC. Naik said: “The flight had entered into an unintended manoeuvre and could not recover from it.”

The aircraft was on routine flight testing when the mishap occurred. An IAF helicopter flew the pilots back to Bangalore, they said. HAL Executive Director (HR) told Deccan Herald that the pilots were taken to the HAL hospital.

The status of the pilots is unknown. HAL maintains that they are safe. The IJT, which was scheduled for an initial operational clearance (IOC), a step closer to being inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF), may not meet the target even this year.  This would mean that the programme has got delayed by over half a decade (The programme was sanctioned in 1999).

The crash derails IAF’s plans too, as the IJT was meant to be the backbone of the IAF’s combat pilot training programme, replacing its workhorse Kiran.

Major setback

The first prototype of the IJT had suffered a major setback as the canopy of the aircraft flew open during take-off causing serious damage to the aircraft in the 2007 edition of Aero India. Just before the 2009 Aero India, its second prototype had landed on its belly while rehearsing for the show, causing considerable damage to the structure of the plane.

The aircraft was then piloted by Retired Squadron Leader Baldev Singh and Wing Commander C Subramaniam.

Although HAL maintains that such mishaps are part of any flight test process, the increasing number of crashes of HAL-manufactured aircraft has left India’s leading PSU with a bad reputation.

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