A Situational Comedy in Flight back in 1975
Work in the IAF is a serious affair. Fighter aircraft are unforgiving brutes that demand the highest precision and accuracy.
The Smallest error may lead to tragic accidents. As a result of accident, this expensive inventory of the IAF gets depleted, and sometimes invaluable lives are lost. Yet there are occasions when a tragedy is luckily averted. Then the whole thing turn into a comedy.
I will relate such a story today, which happened decades back in 1975.
The aircraft involved were two Russian made Sukhoi fighter aircraft, code named SU7. Flying them were two young fighter pilots of the Indian Air Force. SU7s had since been phased-out of the IAF many years back.
The pilots involved too must have retired. We do not know where they are and how are they now. Yet the story remains funny for all times.
Two SU7s fell due for a major overhaul at Air Force Station Ambala. Only Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) near Nasik was authorised to undertake major overhauls. Therefore those two SU7s had to be flown to Nasik. It was a routine flight.
Two young and enthusiastic SU7 pilots were selected for this task. The distance from Ambala to Nasik was around 1450 km. SU7s could not fly that distance without refuelling, even with additional tanks (Drop Tanks) filled with fuel.
Therefore, it was decided that the pair of planes would have a refuelling halt at Jodhpur on the way.
Somehow the take-off time for the said aircraft got delayed, and the Pilots had barely enough time to reach Nasik before the sunset.
Nasik those days did not have a night landing facility. Thus, in all urgency, the young pilots became airborne.
When the pilots landed at Jodhpur, the Sun God had already started descending towards the West. So naturally, the Pilots were in a tearing hurry to get airborne again.
Pilot No.2 in the formation was the main character of this episode. He was standing next to the technician who was refuelling his aircraft and urging him to hurry up.
The technician needed sufficient time to fill the drop tank up to its total capacity. But the young Pilot was breathing down his neck and asking him to hurry up. Being thus goaded, the technician hastily removed the refuelling hose even before the fuel had stopped flowing.
As a result, the Pilot standing next to him got thoroughly drenched with highly volatile ATF (Aviation Turbine Fuel).
The Pilot screamed at him. But the damage was already done. Unfortunately, there was no spare set of flying clothing in the aircraft. The fuel started evaporating from the Pilot’s clothes, and he was feeling slightly cold.
He knew that he should not be anywhere near a naked flame, and that was all about it. He quickly jumped into the cockpit and took off. . It was a routine flight. Therefore, the speed of this pair of aircraft was set at a leisurely pace.
Halfway through to Nasik, Pilot no2 started feeling a strange tingling sensation between his thighs. He looked down and could not detect smoke or fire there.
Unperturbed, he flew on. But with time, the tingling sensation increased by minutes, and soon, it became almost unbearable. Pilots do not panic easily.
Therefore, he tried to analyse the cause of his agony. He concluded that by then, the gravity had pulled down the ATF on his flying overall to the place where it hurts a man most.
The chemical mixed with ATF for increased volatility was the causing the unwelcome sensation on the vulnerable point.
The Pilot radioed to the lead pilot of aircraft no 1, flying ahead of him, to speed up. But the situation was so unusual that the lead pilot could not grasp the urgency and continued flying at the same speed.
The agony of the second Pilot became so intense that in his desperation, he needed to do something before he lost his family jewels. So he engaged the afterburner and overtook the lead aircraft in supersonic speed.
Soon he vanished like a spec in the sky. The Pilot’s landing on the runway of Nasik runway was just short of a crash landing, and he brought his aircraft in the shortest possible time.
Immediately he pulled the lever and, the canopy flew open. In a great hurry, the Pilot put his foot on the plane’s wing and jumped on the tarmac with a thud.
The Pilot had no time for anyone to come and assist him. He tore off and threw his flying overall, the vest and even his brief. He was standing next to his plane Full-Monty and enjoying the relief.
The technicians who had come over to attend to him were totally perplexed. Looking at him, they could not comprehend what the trouble with him was. They sent a message on their walky-talky to get an ambulance fast. The ambulance was parked just under the air traffic control building.
The medical crew hopped into the ambulance, and it drove like an arrow. The ambulance came to a screeching halt next to the Pilot.
Now it was the turn for the Pilot to gape. He saw a lady doctor approaching him. His two palms were all that he had for a cover.
But all was well that ended well. The Pilot had not suffered any serious injury.
The incident became a station joke.
Pilot number 2 had to treat all the pilots in the station with beer and snacks in the officers’ mess that evening.
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