Overcoming the fear of flying

Kumar Nadig flies a 2-seater plane to overcome the trauma of 1990 air crash

Overcoming the fear of flying

Kumar Nadig not only cheated death and survived the worst air crash but also managed to save two lives –– pulled out a young boy and his mother from the jaws of death.  A day after the Mangalore air crash, he narrated the two-decade-old trauma to Deccan Herald: “I had resigned the job in Mumbai and was coming home for good but am lucky enough to be here to tell the story.

Initially, I was allotted 10-A seat but after boarding the flight, a young boy wanted to sit next to the window. I exchanged the seat and travelled in 11-C seat. All was well till landing when things went haywire within seconds.

Of course, lots of things might have been going on in every one's mind and even before anyone could think or act, the aircraft starting descending so fast and hit the ground hard and started rolling.

I rushed towards the emergency door and managed to open it. The space led me to the wings and I pulled out the boy and the mother along. We just ran on the wings and ducked a fire ball before landing on the ground. In the melee, all the three suffered injuries but we were one of the few survivors. Passengers, especially those who were seated in the front and the middle portion, all perished.

Burn marks on my  face and arms took almost a year to heal but the fear of flight haunted me for years. In fact, even the smell of burnt metal, plastic and other alloys used to take me back to the day of the air crash. For instance, I visited the 9/11 site a few days after the accident, the smell virtually took me on an old trip and I was down for more than a week. The pictures of thick fire ball, blast, smoke and accident scenes are stuck in the mind and however hard you try, it continues to haunt me.

“I never wanted to take a flight from then and travelled to places by train and road, but my profession demands that I fly. Though I was one of the early birds to Jakkur Flying Club, I dared not to look at a plane. Later I decided to start flying to overcome the fear psychosis and bought a two-seater Zenair CH-601.

Arvind Sharma, aviation expert who helped Kumar to overcome the fear confessed saying: “Though Kumar had the hang of flying, it was challenging task to incorporate the landing techniques after the accident. He used to act weird when it came to the final stages of landing. Despite, a clear view of the runway, he would go blank. Later, after umpteen repetitions, he overcame the fear and got the hang of takeoff and landing.

Kumar attributes both the air crash –– Bangalore and Mangalore — to pilots’ error. In 1990 A-320 Airbus which was the most sophisticated aircraft available at that time with fly-by-wire technology where the pilot could operate both manually and automatic.”

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