(Uday Kolhatkar via email)
As me and some of my colleagues appeared a little late on the Marut’s Career graph … I must spend a few sentences introducing myself… I am part of a gang of four idiots who happened to be selected from a lot of other course mates to fly the HF 24 Marut in 1979… directly… gasp! Please put yourself in my position as I was one of the more idiotic of the four who actually was a bit thrilled by the posting and reached Flying Daggers Sqn all pepped up and ready to make short work of this sexy and sleek looking fighter!!
Well unfortunately that wasn’t going to happen as everyone laughed at us on first sight saying; “ look at these jokers they want to get twin engine experience, you are scheduled for ration recovery tomorrow and for base ops this weekend”. Well maybe, finally I got the last laugh… but that is another story..
Anyhow it turned out that we got very little flying but much exposure to secondary duties, breakfast etc and got time to sit back and study the Marut crowd and write little anecdotes in the 10 Sqn diary (I was diary incharge). So when we finished our solos and conversion and were packed off to 220 Sqn to “complete our ops syllabus” the flying did not really pick up even though we were down to the classic three idiots (Bhatta had decided to call it quits and go to helicopters) . Then Wg Cdr VK (Jimmy) Bhatia appeared as our CO and wonder of wonders we started aviating again! All of a sudden I was detailed to fly a two aircraft Low Level Navigation with Sqn Ldr KS Bajwa (RIP). After a hurried self briefing (he was chain smoking and looking at me through the smoke haze), he asks have you finished??? To which I replied hesitantly “Yessir”.
“Than we will meet on channel 2 in 10 minutes!”
As I rushed off and started up luckily I switched on the radios immediately, because he was calling me in 7 minutes!!
Well we taxied to the runway and like the idiot I was I lined up on the wrong lane of the runway upwind instead of downwind (thank god).
So when we rolled and accelerated I saw a jeep pelting at me from the intersection and literally felt the horrid stuff leaking out of my rear. I started swerving off to the left of the lane, waiting for impact… well wonder of wonders , I was airborne and well into my second life… so I forgot to put the gear up! Until I got Bajwa’s call “Put your gear up!”
As luck would have it, we went through the rest of the flight uneventfully. When we reached back to the squadron there was much laughter, which to me seemed cruel, as I wanted to point at my rear and say you want to laugh?…well looky at this. Then Jimmy called me and said you know who that jeep guy was? It was our honourable CEO Gp Capt (Later Air Marshal) Khashnobish, he had missed the red traffic signal. Not surprisingly the barrier at the traffic signal was brought up overnight!
Later PA Nair who was in the ATC said that the jeep had missed me by a foot….. that is why I love the Marut’s Sleek design and swept back wings….
Well then yours truly celebrated that day as in any case there was no further flying for me for a few weeks!!
Now I will not hesitate to add that the quality of the Marut pilots was truly exceptional and having dealt with emergency situations on a continuous basis for so many years they welcomed the fact that one of theirs had managed to survive imminent danger.
I for one will be at the Marut get together on 20 Mar to relive the fond memories of those days….