Somewhere over the rainbow

What looks like a complicated manoeuvre to an untrained eye is often fun for the pilots who are performing them up in the sky. Flying, for the pilots, is like sitting before a video game console. And they swear that they wanted to become pilots for as long as they can remember.

 Most of the Indian pilots at the just concluded ‘Aero Show 2017’, say it’s their love for flying that made them choose a career in the Air Force. There were a sizable number of overseas pilots as well and what one got to see was a cultural exchange of sorts with their Indian counterparts.

Andre Brannstrom, test pilot of Gripen, is visiting India for the first time. He was overwhelmed to see people queuing up at the static display unit of the Gripen aircraft.

“There are so many people who are curious to know more about the aircraft. It is this sort of curiosity, when I was young, that drove me to join the Swedish Air Force,” says Andre, who joined the Swedish Air Force in 1992 and has been flying numerous aircraft, before he joined the Gripen in 1999. “It’s the best aircraft and has the capability of executing many complicated missions both in air and on the ground. It’s only getting better every year,” he says. Andre joined the Air Force at a time when there were simulators and he thinks this makes for a cost-effective way of learning about the aircraft. He finds his job very exciting.

“It’s exciting because you are overloaded with so much information and you have to have the presence of mind to know what mission to execute when and how. Sometimes, the workload can go from zero to 100 percent and you have to be ready to go to war at anytime,” says Andre. He says that the test pilots of Gripen are trained to be sharp to make smart decisions.

   The story is no very different with Captain Babou, a French national. He was only six years old when decided that he wanted to enter the French Air Force. “I always wanted to be a fighter pilot and worked towards joining the French Air Force from a very young age. You could call it a single-minded devotion towards becoming a pilot,” says Babou, even as he obliged people around him for a selfie on the concluding day of the aero show. Today, Babou flies the Rafale and says that he couldn’t ask for a better motivation.

“It’s an incredible feeling to do the loops and barrel roll manoeuvres. I enjoy that adrenaline rush every time I hit the sky. A pilot can never get enough of flying. Of course the thrill comes with a lot of responsibility and accountability. You can’t afford to make a mistake when you are flying an aircraft,” he cautions. Babou flew the Dassault Mirage 2000 before he took to the Rafale.

 Wing Commander G V Shende, associated with the newly inducted Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system, felt proud that India has incorporated this category into the Indian Air Force. “The country must be ready to handle any untoward situation at any time and AEW&C has come in at the right time. This system has been developed to detect, identify and classify threats in the surveillance area.” Shende describes his long and rather illustrious service in the Indian Air Force as rewarding and memorable. “Every day offers a new learning experience and I am enjoying every moment,” he says.

The young breed of pilots in the Indian Air Force were seen walking around in their flying suits with much pride and interacting with aviation enthusiasts and patiently answering their queries.

 Flying officers Viklap Singh (aircraft Mi-8) and Shubham Bhandari (Mi-17), were participating in an aero show. for the first time While Shubham Bhandari was impressed
with the Tiger Moth and Gripen, Viklap Singh was proud of the technological strides made in the Indian aviation industry.

“This is the first that I am seeing all the aircraft together at one place. Witnessing the country’s oldest aircraft (Tiger Moth) hit the sky was a wonderful feeling,” Shubham.

Viklap says, “I joined the Air Force after seeing the pictures of all these aircraft and hearing about their capabilities. Now, seeing them perform is an unforgettable learning experience.”
Nina C George

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