Bengaluru: Two aircraft that were part of the Indian Air Force (IAF) Surya Kiran aerobatic display team collided on Tuesday, killing one and injuring two pilots, while rehearsing for the upcoming Aero India in Bengaluru, a five-day biennial event scheduled to begin on Wednesday.
“Today morning around 1150 hrs, two Hawk aircraft of Surya Kiran aerobatic team crashed close to the Yelahanka air force base. These aircraft were carrying out practice for the forthcoming Aero India 2019 air show. Out of the three crew of the aircraft, Wg Cdr VT Shelke and Sqn Ldr TJ Singh ejected. However, Wg Cdr Sahil Gandhi sustained fatal injuries," the IAF said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.
The two injured pilots were taken to the Command Hospital in Bengaluru, where they are being treated. The IAF said that a court of inquiry has been ordered to probe the accident that resulted in the loss of another young pilot.
The crash of the Surya Kiran or Sun Rays cast a shadow over the Aero India show, a hallmark event of the IAF in Bengaluru since 1996. The aerobatic team has been one of the biggest attractions.
The IAF said the damage to life and property in the vicinity of the crash site was still being ascertained.
A video captured by civilians on ground shows the two ill-fated BAE Hawk Mk132 aircraft spiral out of control seconds before the crash, just outside the Yelahanka air force station. Other videos, taken from nearby apartment buildings, showed thick smoke billowing from the crash site and locals rushing to the help of the injured pilots.
The IAF approves and ensures that most of the aerobatic teams perform only pre-approved maneuvers to avoid any harm to the hundreds of thousands of visitors or bring in any bad press for the event.
The Flying Bulls, the Czech Republic based aerobatic team, had a mid-air crash in the 2015 edition of the show. The 60-year-old Radka Machova, lead pilot in the XA42 aircraft, was applauded for her skill in landing the aircraft safely after the mid-air collision.
Tuesday’s accident took place just over a fortnight after the IAF lost two young pilots when their Mirage 2000 crashed shortly after takeoff at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) airport located in the eastern part of Bengaluru.
The IAF aerobatic team uses the Kiran Mk.II jet trainers. The team was disbanded after it performed in the 2011 edition of Aero India as the IAF needed the aircraft for training. Delays in production of the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) by HAL necessitated the use of the Hawk.