MiG-27 pilot recalls Thursday horror flight

Hasimara, Feb. 3: The MiG-27 that crashed in Bhatpara Tea Estate on Friday afternoon had developed a mechanical problem minutes after it took off from the Indian Air Force station here, the pilot said today.

Wing Commander Jaspreet Singh had taken off at 12.28pm and soon sensed trouble in the fighter plane’s engine.

Sitting in room 142 in the officers’ ward of the station hospital, Singh said he had immediately radioed the air traffic control.

“I tried my best to get back to base safely, but the engine caught fire and I immediately ejected,” Singh said.

The plane spiralled away trailing smoke and crashed three kilometres away at 12.35pm, seven minutes after take off.

“I was told that I had parachuted down on Raimatang Tea Estate. The people there were very helpful and provided me with a Maruti Omni and drove me to the Kalchini police station,” the pilot said.

Singh was flown back to the air station in an IAF helicopter that landed in the field in front of the police station soon after the crash. He was taken directly to the station hospital, where he is undergoing rigorous medical check-ups.

The wing commander will have to go for further medical tests at the Command Hospital in Calcutta. R.S. Upadhyay, the commanding officer of the hospital here, said Singh was “in good health” and would be released in a day or two.

“I was lucky to survive and also glad to hear that there were no human casualties on the ground where the aircraft impacted, though I have not visited the place as yet,” said the pilot with more than 2,600 hours of flying time.

The station commander, Group Captain M.K. Behl, today said the black box from the MiG-27 has been recovered from the Bhatpara tea garden. He said experts from all over India had come here to find out the reason for the accident.

Singh, who joined the IAF as a pilot officer in 1993, was transferred here from Tezpur in Assam last April.

“My wife gave birth to our second child, a son, on December 18. She told me over telephone that she is coming to see me from Mohali soon,” the pilot said.