The 5100th Martin Baker Ejectee: Sam Sekhar

SAFETY JOURNAL MAY-77

 

….. And Five Minutes

    After Lift off

By: Flt Lt SVR Sekhar

 1130 Hrs 5 Oct 76

 You land after the second detail……..and are told that “you are on a static display in Delhi and take off is in three hours  time”.A quick change to rush home and pack a suitcase…….and you are told to hold fire  as the take off has been delayed to 0730 hrs the next day. As you get some time to breathe you decide to look after Admin arrangements at Palam. A quick call informing the course-mate of your arrival the next day…….and requesting him to pick you up.You inform all agencies to keep the necessary information ready for 0600 hrs the next day…. And you drive home, and gently break it to the wife that “you are off on a two day trip”.Mumble,Mumble, grumble…..  and you get a mouthful of what the spouse thinks of the Air Force and its impromptu moves.You cool the situation by telling her that good saris are available at Delhi………and wasn’t she just two days back yearning for some? The Mumble,Mumble, grumble dies down slowly and the suitcase starts getting packed.When you inform her of the awakening time on the morrow she gets very flight safety conscious,…… and locks up the liquor cabinet……… and serves dinner at 2000 hrs. You commence the Mumble. Mumble grumble…..and are promptly told to pipe down.

 0500 Hrs   6 Oct 76

 You get up as the alarm breaks into the morning song, do the chores and are off at 0545 hrs.Pick up the leader, the medico……….. and the briefing starts at 0600 hrs.You then proceed to the outfit where you compute and mark the maps.The leader commences the briefing and tells you to inform ATC that the formation will be taking off on Runway 05 as the initial course is 055. (This decision has given you the odd thousand feet and the odd seconds on the punch out.) You proceed to the aircraft and strap in real tight, as  you always do, light up, R/T check……and taxi out in the proper fashion.

 At the V/A point you give the usual hard tugs to the shoulder straps and complete your vital actions. (These extra tugs are the ones that save your back on the punch out.) You do a 15 seconds stagger take off behind the leader, and as you raise flaps he reports that one of his landing gear lights is red, and asks you to close in for a check.You close in to 100 yards to his right……..and see the leader recycle his landing gear,……. And he calls up everything is Okay.You respond to his call for “BUSTER” and start building up speed to 400 kts……….and edge out to the right. As you are at 800 yards abreast of the lead you roll out on course 055 , synchronize compass…. And take a quick glance inside to see that all engine…..and other instruments…. And lights are normal.

 You are now scanning the sky…… and suddenly an ALMIGHTY EXPLOSION takes place behind you. Before you can say Jack Robinson your left hand is flung up and hits the port wall of the cockpit, the stick is snatched out of your hand, your bone dome is touching the canopy and you see everything red. You notice debris flying around the left side, the fire warning lights are “ON” and the aircraft is in a near vertical dive, with the noise level in the cockpit rising to  a very high crescendo. You know the time has come to say good-bye to the aircraft…… and what the Flt Cdr said about reaching for the seat pan handle in an emergency flashes by in your mind. With great effort both your hands are lunged downwards to grasp the handle and give it a violent pull upwards.You feel the canopy leaving the aircraft…….and the seat pan handle is up to your chest……… and you are still in the aircraft seeing the earth rush up to you.Your eyes are now mesmerized by the seat pan handle and you scream  “SON OF A GUN GO….O….O….O….O….O”.You hear a bang……..and you get a violent kick upwards……… and as you exit from the aircraft your eyes are shut tight…..and the bone-dome and inner helmet along with the oxygen mask are ripped away from your head.Your lips are open and pressed back in a sardonic grin….. and you have a feeling of going up through a void in a super express elevator with a maniac at the controls. The noise is a mighty roar in your ears and then you hear a loud PHUT! ………and your body is jerked to a halt in mid-air. IT IS ABSOLUTELY SILENT ALL AROUND YOU…….. and you open your eyes and see yourself dangling in your parachute. You look to the right and see your canopy tumbling down…….. and hit the earth, you turn left and see a black column of smoke and you know that it was D 1247. You look up and see the drogue parachute fall over the canopy and get tangled in a few of your rigging lines…….. and there is a small tear in the main parachute.You pray to GOD that the canopy will not collapse….. and you feel a gentle fore and aft oscillation start.You gently pull the front rigging lines and the oscillation stops.You look below and see villagers looking up at you with their mouths open. 

You ready yourself for a landing……… and all the past briefing and lectures on Para descent pass through your mind. You notice your flying boots are unzipped and you gingerly raise your feet and zip them up.You notice a tree right below and gently pull the front rigging lines……… and you sail right over the tree and you hit the deck with your feet together.Your feet take the shock…… you roll mover sideways and the parachute collapses immediately. You unstrap yourself and say a small prayer……. And give a mouthful to the aircraft for leaving you in the lurch.You realize that your lead may be in a panic about you as you gave no call before your punch out.The villagers being GODFEARING keep telling you that,you are indeed lucky as there is a GOD above….and due to HIM you are alive. You reply in the affirmative and do a few “toe touches” to ensure your back is fine.

 The survival training in you comes awake…… and you dash off a message to the nearest railway station master to flash details to the base. You hear a jet and you see your lead flying back to base at a height 5 to 6 thousand feet. You want to yell at the top of your voice to him that you are safe….. and you know that the double star pyrotechnic is useless as he is too high. You pray that no one rushes to your home to inform your spouse that the man of the house is missing. You ask the villagers to drape the parachute over a tree…. And get ready with the next double star. You see your lead come back……. And you fire a double star, but no luck, he just doesn’t see it.Your SPIRITS SOAR as you see one Mi-4, one Chetak and a Canberra approaching the crash site.They all commence an orbit, but are all too far away from you. You try and use the heliograph, but the sun is behind you.You get frustrated and fume.  The Canberra comes a little closer….. and you fire another double star.  He doesn’t see it either.  You wait for the Mi-4 to come closer and fire another one, but it is no use, he hasn’t seen it either.You tell yourself to keep the last flare till you see the whites of the pilot’s eyes. You see the Chetak coming towards you…. And when he is at 500 yards from you,  you fire the last double star right at the rotors. The Chetak changes direction….. and you commence waving, frantically at first…. And then slowing it down to a steady pace. The chopper flies over you, does a right turn and comes to a hover….. and you point to the pilot’s right….. and indicate a landing area. You thank the villagers for their hospitality…… and rush to the chopper…… and see the Army Major come out….. and ask you about your health.You pump his hand vigorously and tell him everything is honky dory. The parachute and survival pack is loaded into the chopper, you strap yourself in… and as you wave farewell to the villagers, the chopper lifts off…. And you are on your way to base.

DFS COMMENT (GROUP CAPTAIN T.K. SEN.)

…….….and as you learn from this personal experience, you don’t want to use all the double stars you have, in such an awful hurry.

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9 Responses to The 5100th Martin Baker Ejectee: Sam Sekhar

  1. Gp Capt Gurdeep Singh (retd ) says:

    Great !
    That brought back memories of my own EXTREME LL ejection during INDO_pAK 71 OPS from SU 7.I landed in burning wreckage and of course injured myself .That story may be some other time.But hats off for Ejection seat designers ,manufacturers and parachutes which have saved so many lives the world over.
    Thanks for the gripping narration.
    GURDEEP SINGH

  2. PS Sanadi says:

    Hi Sam,
    A super narration. Great feeling coming down with the ‘chute. I had a lump in my throat at the top of the trajectory, when the seat separated and I was free falling & I thought to myself S..t the chute has not opened & saw the ground all burning rushing up & THUP it opened. 5 seconds drop & I hit the burning ground with the chute draped over a Babul tree. LL ejection from a Mig Trainer after Take off at Kanpur. Sad lost my co-pilot F/L Auto Arora RIP – Sandy

  3. Sam, come out with it now atleast.The DFS will not courtmartial you,. What about the hip flask and
    your first action after you landed on ur bum ???
    (Since you were nt top heavy anyway !!!)
    The same hip flask which you hid from Nippu the previous night when she locked up the bar !!!

  4. VADM SUNIL DAMLE (RETD) says:

    Brilliant. Reminded me of my own ejection from a Sea Harrier (in a slightly different situation). Narration before the flight and after it ended abruptly is superb.

  5. Mini Menon says:

    Sam, what a gripping story! Even though 35 years have gone by since that accident, reading it had my pulse racing. And there is the human touch too! It would be illuminating to read the postmortem of the aircraft.

  6. Dara says:

    Sent by Air Mshl Shashi Ramdas on email:

    Brilliantly written account. He had me sitting on the edge of my chair!!!

  7. JP Singh says:

    Great narration…………Thanks Sam..
    warm regards JP

    • Anil Mathur says:

      Amazing account & very well written. Was reminded of my rather very low ejection at BKT. So low that the shute did not deploy fully & just popped out of the casing. Grossly injured my right leg – knee downwards. Lucky to survive as I could see myself going towards the burning wreakage. This was 16 Jun 1982. Koch my #2 for the sortie thought i was Late & was preparing my obituary, as also how to tell Kalpana.
      Regards. AK

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