Close shave for villagers in MiG crash

Close shave for villagers in MiG crash

Hundreds of residents and students had a providential escape when an Indian Air Force (IAF) MiG-21 fighter plane crashed metres away from a school building and houses in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Monday.

The MiG-21 Bison aircraft reportedly crashed around 11 am in Soibaugh, Budgam, 20 km from here, while on a routine training sortie after taking off from Srinagar.

Eyewitnesses told Deccan Herald the MiG exploded with a deafening noise around 11 am. “Had it not crashed inside the trees, it would have damaged the school building and some house in the vicinity, putting the lives of hundreds of people, including students, at risk,” they said.

The frightened students and residents around the crash site said they thought it was the end of their lives.

Though the pilot ejected safely from the fighter jet, the paddy fields spread across several hectares of land were destroyed by Armymen who landed copters there and launched a search operation around the site after the crash, said the eyewitnesses.

A defence spokesman said the MiG-21 of 51 Squadron crashed at around 10:59 am, but there was no loss of life reported in the incident. “The pilot and co-pilot managed to escape in time,” he said, adding that an inquiry has been ordered into the incident.

It was not immediately known what caused the crash. Last year in May, a MiG-21 fighter plane had crashed in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, resulting in the death of squadron leader Raghu Bansi on board.

India is phasing out its MiG-21 squadrons, following incidents of its frequent crashes. Official data reveals that more than half the country’s fleet of 872 MiGs, which have been nicknamed “flying coffins”, have been lost to crashes over the last four decades.

The MiG-21 Bison is an upgraded version of the MiG-21 fighter, which has helped the IAF prolong the life of its MiG-21 fleet. As of now, the IAF has six squadrons of the Bison.

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