It was HF-24 Marut BD 840 (18th prototype) from which I ejected on 16th July 1967 at Jamnagar while commanding No 10 squadron when HF-24 was inducted in IAF. The same aircraft HF-24 BD 840 was ferried by me from Bangalore to Jamnagar via Pune on 17th June 1967
This is the Story
At Jamnagar on a simulated Low Level strike mission, I took off (sunday morning ) and while returning to base got lost due to bad weather and adopted Local Lost Procedure which was very simple at Jamnagar (Just steer 270 degrees, hit the coast, recognise Dwarka and then steer course to base).
This is what I did and I could see Jamnagar Runway right ahead and was quite pleased to reach home. Just at that moment one engine flamed out. I quickly checked my Fuel gauge . It was reading 100 gallons just enough to reach the airfield ahead and do a direct landing and perhaps, flame out during taxiing. Lo Behold –a minute after that, the second engine also flamed out when the fuel gauge was still reading 60 gallons.!!
I realised that I cannot make the Runway from that height , and trimmed the aircraft for a straight & level flight and ejected at about 1000 feet .
While descending I could see the aircraft make a perfect Belly Landing in a field below and there was NO FIRE or explosion on touchdown.
Later it was found , the cockpit was intact and fuel gauge still reading 60 gallons, but not a drop of fuel in the tank
Revealing the TRUTH at that time would have put many in trouble and given a bad name for HF-24 a/c. This incident would definitely hamper further production. I stated that there was ‘nothing wrong with the aircraft’ but emphasised that Matra Fuel was not there to reach home though Fuel Gauge was reading 60 gallons.
I was responsible for the accident and no one else was blamed.
Why there was no fuel in the matra tank, though the Fuel gauge was showing 60 gallons ?
THIS IS THE REAL STORY .
AFTER THE SUCCESSFUL EJECTION ON 16th JULY 1967 , now at my age of 80+
LET ME TELL THE FACTS .
I ferried HF-24 BD 840 ( 18th prototype) on 17th June 1967 from Bangalore to Jamnagar via Pune. At Pune airfield , the refuelling was delayed as the a/c was kept waiting for AOC (West)who was coming to see HF-24 . He sat in the cockpit and familiarised for sometime and got out saying ‘Bye’. The refuellers rushed in to fill up the tanks. I told them to leave the Matra Tank alone as it requires time to open the canopy first and then fill up ( Later Types are Modified ).
I hurried this action, due to the Weather Warning by Met Dept for a huge build up at Ahmedabad , my radio compass reporting point en route Jamnagar.
I decided to Take off quickly to avoid Ahmedabad and make a BEE Line straight to Jamnagar , cutting across Arabian Sea which I did successfully. The violations are many:
a) not sticking to Flight Plan and avoiding Ahmedabad reporting point..
b) cutting across the sea and not having Dinghy pack
c) not contacting Homer except D channel, just to contact Jamnagar airfield before landing
d) At the height of 30,000 feet the visibility was clear and I could see the destination. The build up was only at North over Ahmedabad and the West was very clear. So I took the decision in mid Air.
The F 700 was recorded Matra Tank Full all along in F 700. The same aircraft BD 840 was flown by me on 16th July 1967 , when I EJECTED with NO FUEL in Matra Tank.
I kept my mouth SHUT at that time as the Fault was entirely mine .
Any other statement of mine would have retarded the production of HF-24 a/c, and have put many in trouble. The then HAL Managing Director, P.C Lal, was happy and pleased that I did not blame the HF-24 a/c but myself and the production continued.
When he came back as CAS , I was posted as O.C Flying Jodhpur where two Marut Sqns ( No 10 & 220 ) were based. Later I was the Base Commander at Uttarlai ( 1971 War) when these two Maruts Sqns flew many successful missions and brought FAME & GLORY to Marut Aircraft. My seniority was Fully Restored to my original substantive Rank of Wg.Cdr.
I still feel Marut is a wonderfully designed aircraft but lacked a suitable & powerful engine . Why search for new type when Maruts have proved its worth at Low Level during 1971 War. When I ejected from Marut BD 840 on 17 July 67, the aircraft made a perfect Belly Landing with least damage , with cockpit & all instruments intact is by itself a real proof for the perfect design . All Marut pilots who flew at 300 feet and below during 1971 War , purely depending on their two eyes and Guts ( No Radar Pick up ) will swear by the ease and manoeuvrability of this beautiful aircraft.
Give a chance to HAL to revive this Type. We have expertise and Talents to produce better if not the Best. Leave politics alone.