A pilot of the Indian Air Forces elite Surya Kiran Aerobatics Team (SKAT),Wing Commander Rajpal Singh Dhaliwal (34),died after his Kiran II aircraft crashed 12 minutes after take-off near the Bidar Airbase in Karnataka on Wednesday morning. However,the first crash for the Air Force this year did not cause any casualties on the ground as it crashed in a vacant plot of defence land during a training sortie .
While an inquiry has been ordered into the incident,sources said that the crash may have been caused due to a bird hit. Minutes before the crash,a flock of birds had been identified close to the path of the aircraft.
Singh is survived by his father,an ex-Air Force officer,his wife Rubinder,a former journalist and a year-and-a-half-old daughter.
An experienced pilot with more than 1,000 hours of flying to his credit,Dhaliwal had joined the aerobatics team recently. His body will be flown to Patiala for the last rites. A number of senior politicians have condoled his demise and expressed shock and sorrow.
This is the second crash involving a SKAT aircraft after a mid-air collision between two aircrafts over the same airfield in 2006. The aerobatics team was due to perform at the Aero India Exposition in Bangalore in February. The team was practicing for the upcoming event,sources said.