Russian Knights arrive with bang

Russian Knights arrive with bang

As the crowds at Yelahanka Air Force Station stood craning their necks in anticipation, the metal birds took to the skies.

The French Rafale, India’s Tejas, Sarang helicopter aerobatic team and the Embraer AeWACS aircraft were among those that drew the crowds.

They did so until the show-stoppers — the Russian Knights — gave spectators a teaser before they landed. Arriving around 12.40 pm, accompanied by an IL-76 carrying the crew, technicians and equipment, the five Sukhoi-27 aircraft entered Yelahanka airspace amid a large gathering.

“Watching the fighter do its stunts is something else,” a retired Army officer said. The Russian Knights first did a fly-past and then made four rounds before finally performing the thrilling split and eventually landing. Having waited for two days, many curious visitors were spotted asking the organiser when the real performance from the Knights was scheduled.

The Knights did not perform in the afternoon session. “The crew would rest today and perform tomorrow (Saturday),” a press officer said. Lt Col Alekseev Andrey, commander of Knights, said they would have to first perform qualification sorties on Saturday morning, before they get clearance for the manoeuvres.

The pilots, Lt Col Alexander Bogoan, Lt Col Oleg Epofeev, Major Denis Plaksin, Major Sergen and Lt Col Alekseev said they were eager to perform in India and it would be great if they could perform alongside Indian pilots.

The Knights will have an average performance time of 25 minutes per display, a reduction of 15 minutes from their average of 40 minutes.

On their signature performance moves, he said: Each team has its own specialities. Ours are that our flights are on heavy aircrafts and do not have any special equipment installed.

He said while the Indian audience might be familiar with their solo flight performance, this would be first time that they would perform as a group. The team said they were grounded in Kyrgyzstan for three days due to bad weather and faced similar weather conditions when they landed in  New Delhi. They also confirmed that delays on Thursday was due to “legal” issues in Delhi.

While Saturday will be the first real show of the Knights, the crowd is expected to be bigger than normal. The organisers confirmed that all Rs 400 passes have been sold.

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