A Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft piloted by a 59-year-old senior Air Marshal crashed near Bhind in Madhya Pradesh after reported engine failure soon after noon on Friday. Both pilots the other being the commanding officer of the concerned squadron ejected safely.
Air Marshal Anil Chopra is posted in Delhi and heads the Air Forces personnel branch. While he is a qualified Mirage pilot and the commodore commandant of the No. 1 Tiger Squadron,it is unusual for an officer of his rank to pilot a fighter aircraft.
Air Marshal Chopra was in Gwalior for the silver jubilee celebrations of the induction of the fighter,and had gone up for a sortie with Wing Commander Ram Kumar,who commands the No. 1 Squadron. The IAFs Mirage fleet is now down to 50 aircraft.
Most of the fighter flying is done by young pilots,and officers beyond the rank of Group Captain are not detailed for operational missions. Air Marshal Chopra,who retires from the Air Force in December,is the oldest and seniormost officer to be involved in a fighter crash.
The silver jubilee celebrations begin tomorrow,with all three Mirage squadrons and a host of retired and senior officers participating.
A court of inquiry has been ordered into the crash but all preliminary information points to an engine failure mid-flight. The pilots tried to restart the engine several times before they were ordered to eject as the fighter lost altitude.
The pilots reported an engine snag after taking off and ejected shortly afterwards. There was no damage on the ground; both pilots are safe, an Air Force officer said.