Bengaluru: A Mirage-2000 trainer (Mirage 2000 I/TI) of Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed on Friday morning while undertaking a sortie at old Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Airport. Though both had pilots ejected, they later succumbed to the injuries.
According to sources, Sqn Ldr Siddhartha Negi and Sqn Ldr Samir Abrol were on a routine sortie when the crash occurred. Thick smoke was billowing out of HAL airport around 10.30 am, soon after the crash.
The incident happened soon after the pilots took off. It seems to be an aborted take-off. The pilots seem to have ejected on take-off roll, giving them very limited time to react.
Both pilots are from IAF’s Aircraft Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), which is situated on the Wind Tunnel Road of HAL Airport.
The crash happened at HAL airport which is used for a series of test flying activities by IAF, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), ASTE among others.
IAF has instituted a court of inquiry to investigate the cause of the accident.
“This morning a Mirage 2000 trainer aircraft on an acceptance sortie after upgrade crashed at (the) HAL Airport, Bengaluru. Both occupants sustained fatal injuries. Further details are awaited. Investigation into the cause of accident is being ordered,” Defence PRO, Bengaluru, said.
The Mirage 2000 is fitted Zero-Zero ejection seats that enable the crew to bail out even if the platform is on ground and immobile. This was the tenth crash of Mirage 2000.
The crashed Mirage was recently upgraded by HAL and the pilots were on a Customer Acceptance Flight (CAF), a mandatory procedure.
HAL was mandated to upgrade the existing fleet of Mirage-2000 from 2016. The initial first two platforms were upgraded by Dassault and Thales in 2015 and handed over to IAF.
“We normally have three to four CAF flights before we ferry the fighters\trainers to our bases. These are normal SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures),” an official said.
Sources said the Mirage hit the arrester barrier at the end of the runway on the Yemlur side.
One pilot was taken to HAL Hospital and another to Command Hospital – both in the close vicinity of HAL Airport.
Interestingly, the incident happened when the IAF Commanders’ Conference is under way in Bengaluru with Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa chairing the same.
The post-mortem procedure is being conducted at the Command Hospital after which the mortal remains will be handed over to the family members.
Sqn Ldr Negi (31) was commissioned into IAF in June, 2009, and hails from Dehradun, while Sqn Ldr Abrol (33) was commissioned into IAF in June, 2008, and hails from Ghaziabad in UP.
Sqn Ldr Abrol has also flown Tejas as part of the CAF for the IAF.
HAL said the company regretted the loss of two pilots in the crash. “HAL family expresses deepest condolences to the grief-stricken families. We have initiated an enquiry into the accident in co-ordination with the IAF,” an HAL statement said.
Major mishaps since 2000 in Bengaluru
On October 26, 2005, a MiG-21 had crashed soon after take-off at HAL Airport killing Sqn Ldr K R Murthy, a trainee Test Pilot and injuring Sqn Ldr K D Bhat, a Flight Test Engineer, both from ASTE. The carcass found on the cockpit windshield had then suggested that the incident might have occurred due to a bird-hit.
On February 2, 2007, ahead of Aero India, an Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv of Sarang aerobatic team crashed at Air Force Station Yelahanka killing the co-pilot Squadron Leader Priye Sharma. The Wing Commander V Jetley sustained injuries and remained in a state of coma for many years. Despite the best medical attention, Wg Cdr Jetley passed away on January 11, 2011.
On March 6, 2009, IAF lost Test Pilots Wg Cdr Praveen Kotekoppa and Wg Cdr Dipesh Shah along with a Flight Test Engineer Sqn Ldr Ilayaraja, when the second prototype of Saras from National Aerospace Laboratories crashed near Bidadi.