Everyone looked on in awe and amazement as pilots gave the word ‘daredevilry’ a new meaning at the inauguration of the 11th edition of ‘Aero India 2017’. They were the stars of the day; they shook hands, smiled at people, posed for pictures and answered innumerable questions.
Making the most of the rare occasion when these travelers of the skies came down to earth, Rajitha Menon talked to wing commander Hansraj Bhatt and squadron leader Karthik Ramesh about life in the fast lane.
How did you get interested in this field?
Hansraj: I am from Bareilly; I did my schooling and all there. I joined National Defence Academy (NDA) in 1998 and got commissioned in 2002 in the transport stream of Indian Air Force.
At present I am flying the C-130 Super Hercules. It was my childhood dream to become an Air Force pilot and I consider myself lucky to have come this far.
How would you describe the experience of flying for the first time?
Hansraj: Like the way a person can’t forget his/her first date, I can’t forget the day I became airborne for the first time – January 11, 2001.
Flying is something that one can never give up. I have had a variety of experiences in this service- flying over islands, over mountains, over deserts; you think of a place and the Air Force gives you an opportunity to fly over that terrain.
Karthik: I am from Mumbai and I had no one with an Air Force background. I joined the NDA after 11th standard; I didn’t know anything about any of the forces but I was impressed with what I saw. I was an Air Force cadet and got commissioned into the fighter stream.
Is it difficult to get into this field?
Hansraj: Technically no. You need to be only a 12th standard pass with a science background if you want to join NDA.
There is also an entry after graduation, a person need not get into NDA for that. The person will be commissioned within one and a half years of getting into the Air Force. But the actual process is of course very tough.
Most memorable moment in your career so far?
Karthik: It has to be the first time I went solo in the first trainer that I flew. I was
graduating straight from a cycle to an aircraft; I didn’t know how to ride a bike or a car.
How does the aero show benefit the players?
Hansraj: This is an international level show. So whenever this is held, it showcases not only what the Indian Air Force does but also shows the other agencies involved in nation building like DRDO, HAL and many others. International companies also get a chance to market themselves and sell their products.
What is the one common misconception people have about you people?
Karthik: People see the movie ‘Top Gun’ and then compare our lives with what is being shown there. They feel it is all fun, it’s all enjoyment and so on. But a lot of hard work is involved in this. You don’t get into the cockpit till you pass a lot of tests.
What is the one challenge you have faced in this career?
Karthik: It has not been a smooth ride; there have been ups and downs. We face challenges all the time. I have flown a total of nine aircraft in my career so graduating to each aircraft is a challenge; but it is fun also.