The time was late SIXTIES and in between SILIGURI and GAUHATI there was a small railway station named HASH-I-MARA. West Bengal was under the rule of the communists with parties called Leninist and Marxist. This did not bode well with the rulers at the HELM in the CAPITAL and so infrastructure funds in this part of the world were at a minimum.

The route from POONA by train was to CALCUTTA and from there by meter gauge to the last outpost in the EAST. There was no rail bridge across one river and so all passengers got off the train on the west bank of the river and were ferried by boat across the river. The journey continued in  another train.

The arrival time at HASH-I-MARA was at 0100 Hours which was the witching time. The platform was the same level as the track and the station was lit by kerosene lamps. The stop at the station was exactly three minutes. No porters were available and so you had to throw you coffin steel trunk and excess baggage down and get off as the train commenced pulling away. Many an officer had the fatal drink and woke up in Gauhati and had to retrace his tracks back to HASH-I-MARA.

There was no town/village by that name and nestled in lush tea gardens and evergreen forests was the BASE where PANTHERS “ BLACK “ operated.

Three times a year young flying officers under the tutelage of a flight lieutenant with four aircraft proceeded to JORHAT for air to ground range work. P K Mukho also known as MOON FACE led this detachment within three  weeks of his arrival to Panthers “ Black “.

The four aircraft touched down on a saturday afternoon and the aircrew got busy on the preparations for the task at hand. All manner of briefings were conducted and the crew were back on sunday morning covering all angles. The station folks did their bit and brought all crew up to speed.

The crew made it back to the mess at 1600 hours.CHICK was sent by chopper as RSO.Four F/O’s were lodged in a huge room and soon music was playing on the PHILIP’S turn table with its two 5 Watt speakers.The owner of this sound box was Keru and it travelled on all detachments. MOON FACE walked by a few times with a frown on his face.

Monday morning MET briefing was at 0500 hours and as the briefing was over MOON FACE decided to give a pep talk to the boys. With a Bengali Red Face foaming at the mouth he commenced berating the crew of how casual and immature we were and he had a lot to teach us with his vast experience about GOOD ORDER AND AIR FORCE DISCIPLINE AND FIGHTER FLYING. He concluded that the days of the HASH-I-MARA MARAUDERS was over and he would whip us all in to a disciplined lot. He was a bitter officer and he said that as a Pilot Officer he was on his way to 4421 COMBAT CREW TRAINING UNIT AT NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE IN TEXAS when on his last Vampire sortie he landed with tree branches in his undercarriage. We asked him HOW COME YOU WERE DOING A BEAT UP WITH YOUR WHEELS DOWN? He lost his COOL and went BALLISTIC.

The pre-mod Hunter had one switch for both rockets and bombs. Switch up was rockets and switch down was bombs.

CHICK got himself organized with a STR 9X and a phone and made himself comfortable in his bathing trunks on the banks of the stream. This stream was about one and one half kilometer from the targets and 90 degrees to the dive direction.The slave party was busy cooking breakfast for the RSO.

CHICK calls the detachment and says all systems are GO and the range is open at 0700 hours. MOON FACE takes the first aircraft loaded with T-10 rockets and 30 MM guns. Three pilots follow in five minute intervals. Fifteen minutes later the phone rings in the detachment hut and V K ARORA  ( M K L    97th Course ) answers the phone. It is CHICK on the other end and he is in hysterics and giggling at the same time and not making much sense. ARORA calms him down and gets the gist of the message.

MOON FACE on his first rocket dive drops his drop tanks and misses CHICK by a few hundred yards. ARORA tells him to adjust the range log and let him fire all four T-10’s and guns. ARORA gets a few armament crew and goes down to blast pen 43 where the war surplus drop tanks are stored. He picks up two drop tanks and at the DSS they get busy removing them from their crates and preparing them for attachment.

MOON FACE lands and he is told he owes the DSS crew two cases of whisky and no mention is made further of the incident and the chapter is closed. MOON FACE becomes RED FACE.

The next day SAM lands after the first trip and as he is signing the Form 700  the CRASH TENDER comes to a screeching halt two feet from SAM and the Flight Sargent of the crash crew is holding the phone piece of the STR 9X and says “ SIR CALL SIGN 152 WANTS TO TALK TO YOU “

SAM asks KERU what ails him?

KERU tells him on lowering the under carriage he has NOSE AND LEFT UNDERCARRIAGE GREEN and the RIGHT UNDERCARRIAGE no light.

JOY is on finals and MOON FACE is on base leg.

SAM runs through the various text book lowering for KERU to attempt. He tells him please do them all within the “ ENVELOPE “

KERU replies YES YES.

KERU does them all

In a loop

In a negative semi loop

In a Barrel roll

High “ G “ Left and High “ G “ Right.

And some outside the Hunter Manual.


SAM tells him to do a pass.

The ATC is situated on the south side of the west /east runway about one third way from dumbbell 27.

KERU obliges and the crash crew jump out of the crash tender.

SAM confirms that the starboard undercarriage is flush inside the wing with the fairing closed.

SAM tells KERU to turn finals when all the DOLLS EYES are white and he is running on  empty or on fumes.

KERU calls TWO GREENS on downwind and turns finals.

SAM asks the MTD to move the crash tender to the edge of the RUNWAY.

IT is indeed a strange sight seeing KERU on FINALS with one wheel up rock steady down the centre line.

No foam is spread as there is only one crash tender.

The thought of ejection was never contemplated.

It was a GIVEN that KERU would do the BEST LANDING.

KERU rounds off smoothly and after a small FLOAT he touches down on the LEFT UNDERCARRIAGE so smooth that there is nary a squeak or whiff of burnt rubber.

He keeps the nose up as long as he can and with full left aileron deflection he guides the nose wheel on to the runway. As the nose wheel is on the runway the right wing commences a slow dip to the  right.

The tail chute is deployed and the engine is switched off as the right wing tip touches the runway. Switches are made safe by him and the wing produces a few sparks and ever so slowly veers off the runway. The aircraft proceeds in this fashion and the sparks stop as he is on the grassy shoulder. The aircraft comes to a halt at an angle of 45 degrees from the runway direction and about 50 yards from the edge of the runway.

The crash tender is in a flash on the left of the aircraft and there is absolutely no sign of sparks or fire.

KERU has the canopy open and is busy putting the seat pan pin in the slot.The armament guy grabs the main pin from the side of the seat and makes it safe.



He exits the aircraft and we wait for the DSS to come along and they lay down some plywood mega sheets and get a jack.The wing is manually lifted by brute force and the jack is slid in and attached.

Two wiz kid technicians get the undercarriage down and with locks on push it back to the runway and towed back.

The next day two transport aircraft land from KANPUR with a contingent of BRD repair crew.

The technical officers examine the aircraft and are all PRAISE FOR KAMAL RAJ SINGH AS THE WING TIP HAS MINIMAL DAMGE.The wing tip is replaced and the aircraft does an air test in four days  and is back in service.


MOON FACE calls a family emergency and goes back by train to HOME BASE.

A citation for the THE AIR FOCE CROSS for KERU is written up and sent to the BOSSMAN. He polishes the citation and sends it to COMMAND. No reply from COMMAND for three months.

A phone call is placed from BASE OPS to the officer who deals with the citations at COMMAND. A Flying Officer named ARUMUGAM asks why no AIR FORCE CROSS for KERU. He is told that KERU is too junior for any award. The awards that year went to 






For meritorious warming of their back sides on easy chairs.


ARUMUGAM calls the COMMAND OFFICER a SPHINCTER MUSCLE. The officer asks for the meaning and is told he is a DIM SPHINCTER MUSCLE. The next week he finds out the meaning and tries to trace the call and ARUMUGAM.

No such officer.




2 Responses to PANTHERS “ BLACK “

  1. Dara says:

    Dara Sir, a Hunter story on the Marut blog – sacrilege!

    just kidding – please do keep them coming..

    if only cameras were as prolific as they are today!


    Sam please note 2nd line above!

  2. Dara says:

    Most impressed with your near perfect memory an eye for detail Sam.


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