IAF prepares to fly Pranab in a Su-30 MKI.
Jayanta Gupta, TNN | Jul 26, 2012, 05.58PM IST
KOLKATA: With Pranab Mukherjee taking oath as President of India and taking over as supreme commander of the armed forces on Wednesday, the day may not be far when he dons a G-Suit and is strapped into the cockpit of a Su-30 MKI supersonic fighter jet for the ride of his life. The tradition was started in June, 2006 by then President APJ Abdul Kalam, who had wanted to become a fighter pilot as a child.
Three years later, in November, 2009, Pratibha Patil also created history by becoming the first woman President of any country to fly in a Sukhoi air-dominance fighter.
"There is no rule as such but since precedence has been set, we think that Pranab Mukherjee won't let go the opportunity. After all, he has been a defence minister in the past. This is an opportunity that no civilian in the country ever gets," an IAF officer said.
Kalam's flight had lasted nearly 40 minutes and the pilot had attained supersonic speed on a request from the President. Patil's flight had also taken off from the Lohegaon air base in Pune but the pilot had been instructed not to go supersonic. It remains to be seen whether Mukherjee wishes to break the sound barrier.
"A lot of preparations are required before such a flight. President Kalam had a scientific mind and was very keen to take the flight. He had undergone medical tests and was declared fit. Before he reached Pune, am IAF wing commander was sent to Rashtrapati Bhavan to brief him about the flight. When he reached the air base, there was a lot of activity. We had to go by something known as the 'blue book' which deals with the President's security. Everything from the President's food to his movement had to be monitored carefully," the officer who was in charge of the flight said.
The aircraft was checked thoroughly and then sent to an isolation bay. Nobody was allowed to approach it before the actual flight. A golf cart was arranged to take the President from the squadron to the parking bay where the aircraft was waiting on the day of the flight.
"Another Su-30 took off along with the President's aircraft as Kalam was keen to see how it shows up on his radar. He asked about the weapons delivery system and other things while airborne. After landing, we found that he had already taken off his mask by himself. He was ready for more. He received another briefing that lasted one and a half hours before leaving the base," the officer said.
The IAF is now looking forward to hosting Mukherjee. Officers believe that it pays in the long run if the President gets a first hand experience of how things operate.
IAF prepares to fly Pranab in a Su-30 MKI - The Times of India