Prez Patil to fly in fighter jet

Detailed medical checkup proves that Patil can fly in a fighter

The President will be airborne in a Su-30 MKI just short  of speed of sound.

During her 30-minute sortie from the Lohegaon base in Pune on November 25, the supreme commander of the armed forces will be flown just short of the sound speed — 0.9 Mach to be exact — so that the president feels no “discomfort”.

Patil will turn 75 on December 19. And her decision to fly in Su-30 MKI follows her predecessor A P J Abdul Kalam’s sortie in a Su-30 MKI in 2006 at the ripe age of 75.
“It (flying in a Su-30 MKI) was the president’s own desire, which is an order for us,” said IAF vice chief P K Barbora here on Tuesday.

“Keeping her age in mind, we won’t do any complicated manoeuvres. We don’t visualise any discomfort and are extremely proud to fly the president,” he said.

The flying age of fighter pilots in combat missions typically does not go beyond 40-45, whereas it can be a few years more in non-combat operations.

Wing Commander S Sajan, commanding officer of 30-squadron will fly Rhino 1 — the call sign of the presidential fighter after the squadron’s crest in accordance with an IAF tradition — at an elevation of 10,000-20,000 ft. He will cruise at a subsonic speed and will not cross the sound barrier. A detailed medical checkup proves that despite her age, the president can fly in a fighter. One more round of medical checkup will be done before the flight.

Asked why the president would be flown in Su-30 MKI and not in the IAF workhorse, MiG-21 Bison, Barbora said the IAF would project its latest capabilities to the supreme commander.

A more practical reason is that the twin-seat trainer versions of MiG-21 Bisons are old MiG-21s that are not upgraded. The armed forces will not risk it.

However, six years ago, former defence minister George Fernandes flew in a MiG-21 to boost the IAF morale when these planes earned the infamous sobriquet of “flying coffins” due to frequent accidents.

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