Every country’s airforce face accidents but the crashing of Indian warplanes during test has become a common news for us.
Recently, French origin jet Mirage 2000 crashed on at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at Bengaluru. The plane witnessed the crash when the two IAF pilots, Squadron leaders – Sidharth Negi and Samir Abrol were testing the flight.

Background

This Dassault Aviation manufactured fleet Mirage 2000 was part of IAF since mid-1980’s. The aircraft recently got an upgrade. HAL has recently received an order from IAF to upgrade more than 50 Mirage 2000 aircraft and the first two of 50 have been upgraded by the major, Dassault Aviation and the rest are being done by HAL. Mirage 2000 was one among the several aircraft that got an upgrade and it has gone through 5 to 6 test before its Friday flight and the Friday flight was second customer sortie.

The Incident


Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 crash at HAL

On Friday, 1st February, The Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft crashed during the test flight at HAL airport and the incident resulted in the death of two Indian Air Force Officers- Squadron leaders Sidharth Negi and Samir Abrol. Both were the test pilot at IAF’s aircraft and system testing establishment, ASTE. While Negi, who was originally from Dehradun, joined IAF in June 2009, Abrol, from Ghaziabad commissioned a year earlier – in June 2008. They both were testing the flight before giving the final consent on whether it can be used for operational purpose or not.

The aircraft came up against the barrier at the end of runway while taking off. Both of the pilots tried to eject immediately from the aircraft but they caught in flames as there was a huge explosion at the time when aircraft crashed. They both suffered with severe injuries. While Sidharth died at the crash site, Officer Samir was declared dead at the hospital. Although there is still uncertainty of the reason behind the crash the sources said that aircraft faced some technical defects. Firefighters were seen drenching the flames even after two hours of the crash.

Officials on Incident

The crash was regretful incident for both the IAS and HAL, various statements has been given by officials in describing the circumstances. The Ministry of Defence was among the first one to release the official statement about the crash:


“Today morning a Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft on an acceptance sortie after upgrade crashed at HAL airport, Bengaluru. Both occupants sustained fatal injuries. Further details are awaited. Investigation into the cause of accident is being ordered” –

Defence Ministry

The official statement from HAL has also been released and as they say:

“HAL regrets to inform that one upgraded Mirage 2000 aircraft crashed during the customer acceptance flight at HAL airport here today around 10.30 am, resulting in loss of lives of two pilots Sqn Ldr Sameer Abrol and Sqn Ldr Siddartha Negi. HAL family expresses deepest condolences to the grief-stricken families. The company has initiated an inquiry into the accident in coordination with the Indian Air Force.”


We are a part of the same team. The Air Force’s loss is my loss,” said the HAL test pilot who also pointed out that there was nothing wrong with the fighter jet in previous test flights.

Another anonymous HAL pilot also share his grief on the death of his mates by writing a letter. He continues to writes “When a Mirage is overhauled, it is offered to us for flight testing. We test it rigorously and only when satisfied, hand the aircraft over to Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), which is the flight test agency of IAF. They put the aircraft through another series of tests and when they are satisfied, the aircraft goes to the field for operational utilisation. The two-stage testing is to doubly ensure that the aircraft meets all parameters in the field,… Our philosophy of testing is to believe that there is only one stage of testing. Therefore, we ensure that the aircraft meets all safety and performance parameters before we hand over to ASTE”.

The pilot continues to defend HAL on being slammed by the outsiders he mentions

“As far as HAL producing sub-standard aircraft, remember that we fly these aircraft to its limits before anyone from IAF touches it. That does not mean that everything is okay with the HAL. It only means that before an aircraft goes to IAF, its standards are good enough for me to bet my life on it. Remember, every pilot in IAF is also betting his life on my judgement,”

As the investigation is taking place on this crash, the Defence Ministry also looks deep into the matter and shows the concern over the issue. Defence Minister Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman interacts with the families of martyred officer Sidharth Negi and Samir Abrol and offers her consolation. She even pointed guns toward the previous UPA government’s inefficiency in upgrading the defence system of the country. She accused them of doing nothing for 10 years and said that the crash of the aircraft after the upgrade is “not a setback for indigenisation”. It is a fact that many things have to be improved in PSUs. Being a responsible organisation, Government, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and Indian Air Force is taking initiative to reduce these ever-increasing “Air – accidents” so that our Indian Air Force doesn’t become an “Air- coffin” for our brave officers.

News Source: NDTV, Economic Times, India TV, Pune mirror and The Quint

Image Credit: The Defense Post and India Today

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