Mrs Meena Sapre, who is in Raipur MP, sent a touching email to AM Shashi Ramdas which he in turn forwarded to me for inclusion on the blog.
Perhaps you would like to convey to all Marut Admirers that I run a LPG distributorsip by the name Marut Gas Agency. It was started in 1972 Dec. After His accident in Nov. 1971 which you know was in connection with Four Gun Trials done near Jamnagar, Indian Oil awarded it to me as means of self employment. I am proud that He did his bit of duty by conducting trials on Marut with total dedication to IAF. Hence the name MARUT as a mark of respect for both, The PIlot and The Aircraft He Sacrificed his life for.
Gp capt Kapil Bhargava recently sent details of the four Test Pilots lost on the Marut. For those who do not know the story of Sqn Ldr Sapre and for those who did know him, I am reproducing relevant portions from Groupie’s write up. The full article will be put up soon. This is also available on the Air Force History Group blog site.
“In the last HF-24 crash involving a test pilot, S/L Sapre was patently lost for no fault of his. With the Bangladesh War looming on the distant horizon, HAL had tried to clear the aircraft for four-gun firing. The vibration level in the aircraft when firing four guns was frighteningly high, almost violent, during butt tests. The traces of flight test records showed very high amplitudes. Yet HAL had cleared it.
I was then commanding A&ATU. During the Steering Committee of the HF-24 at Air Hq in the conference room of the CAS, the point came up that A&ATU needed to test this to approve it for service. The CAS, ACM PC Lal, in his usual sarcastic manner said that it had already been cleared by IAF test pilots in HAL.To this I piped up with my comment, “Sir what is acceptable to the manufacturer may not be acceptable to the customer“. At this he lost his temper. I had forgotten that along with being CAS he was still Chairman HAL. He said, “I suppose the customer means you”. I promptly replied. “No Sir. The customer is you. But if Air Headquarters were happy with the results presented by HAL, A&ATU had no cause to test anything”. This was followed by a coffee break.
After the coffee break, with a sneer, ACM Lal said, “Well, if A&ATU want to play with it, they can do so”. Just before the trails came up in Jamnagar, S/L Sapre (Saper in our parlance) came to see me in Army Hospital in Palam where I had been admitted for investigations as a confirmed diabetic. He said that he was very scared to do these trials. The only advice I could give him was to do absolutely nothing which was not first demonstrated by HAL on the same aircraft. As far as I know, he was in an unlucky breach of this casual briefing.
During several tests of firing two-second long four gun firing, no trouble was encountered. Then it was decided to do a four-second or maybe longer burst. Saper volunteered to do this, though it was not demonstrated by HAL, at least on that aircraft. Over Sarmath Range during gun firing, the paul engaging the aileron linkage came out and caused a sudden bank, probably to the right. Those who had encountered this problem after practice manual flying might know that re-engaging hydraulic power often caused a sudden and high roll to one side. The natural tendency was to fight the roll, but the way to engage it was to roll into the roll. This was obviously not possible for Saper, even if he knew of it. The aircraft went into the Gulf of Cutch and was never found again.
The aftermath of this accident was quite unpleasant. When after the 1971 War, ACM Lal came to Kanpur to thank the Station, we had gathered for lunch. Finding him alone for a short while I spoke to him and said that testing this had cost us an IAF test pilot. He just looked down and I could see that he was as upset as I was.”