A Kargil War hero from the Indian Air Force is under investigation by the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Delhi Police for alleged impersonation and misrepresentation of facts in a bid to fly the aircraft of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Through June and July, engineering, construction and manufacturing giant Larsen and Toubro received a series of mails from BSF Air Wing, which flies Home Minister Amit Shah. The mails requested that Wing Comdr (retrd) JS Sangwan, a BSF pilot, should be given a chance to fly L&T flights.
The mails recommended Sangwan highly saying he was a trained Embraer pilot with Pilot in Command grading and had over 4000 flying hours. Given the high recommendation, L&T agreed and offered to allow him to pilot its flight from Chennai to Delhi to Mumbai in July.
But the plan unravelled a day before he was to leave for Chennai. Then, L&T called the BSF Air Wing office for some clarifications only to be told that the BSF had made no such recommendation. The BSF also stated that Sangwan was not rated even as a co-pilot, let alone as a pilot-in-command (PIC). Examination of the emails revealed, Sangwan had recommended himself, impersonating as his superior, and in one of the mails given his own number for verification calls.
A preliminary enquiry by the BSF has now found that the officer was allegedly trying to clock in enough flying hours on an Embraer so that he could quickly begin to fly the Home Minister. For any VIP flying, a pilot needs a minimum of 500 hours of flying under his belt. And to fly the Home Minister, the requirement is in excess of 1,000 hours.
“Why a decorated IAF officer like him would do that we are unable to understand. Why he was in such a hurry to fly the home minister is a matter of investigation,” a senior BSF officer said.
A complaint has also been filed with the Domestic Airport police station in Delhi. “We have sent a notice to the BSF to provide us all relevant documents and the CCTV footage of the computer room from where the mail was sent,” investigating officer Sub Inspector Anuj Sharma told The Indian Express.
BSF ADG S S Chahar said, “It is a very serious matter. We are exploring all angles in this case. A thorough investigation will be carried out and anyone found guilty will be handed the strictest of punishments. All cooperation is being extended to the police as well.”
The police complaint flags flight safety as a concern in this misrepresentation case. “…my identity has been used with mala fide intentions for passing misleading/wrong information to private operators which could have resulted in violation of flight safety as per DGCA norms/IAF rules for utilising the privileges of licenses in DGCA or various ratings in the IAF,” states the police complaint filed by Wing Commander Praveen Agarwal, Commandant of the BSF Air Wing.
Sangwan, who won a medal during the 1999 Kargil War flying a MiG 21, and was also part of the medium multi-role aircraft evaluation programme, told The Indian Express that he did write the emails on behalf of Agarwal but contended that the entire episode was a result of “misunderstanding” and that he had done it in “good faith”. He asserted what he had done was for the good of the Air Wing and that he was ready to face the consequences of his actions. He also suggested a “conspiracy” to not let him become a PIC.
“I am a military PIC. All I am trying to do is convert this to a civil PIC. And then I have given my mobile number in only one of the mails. In the mail written on behalf of Agarwal, I have given his mobile number. I had nothing to hide,” he said.
Sangwan asserted he had not violated any rules. “I don’t have PIC rating under DGCA. Otherwise, I have flown as a captain in the military. I cannot fly VIPs as PIC. I have been here for the last two years and I have still not been rated. I want to fly VIPs as PIC and that’s why I am trying to fly outside of BSF as I need certain hours. In the Air Force, I would have got it in one year. But here, I haven’t clocked it in two years. Somebody doesn’t want it to happen,” he said.
He also said he was doing so in the service of the nation as otherwise he could have got five times the salary flying commercial aircraft. “When an Anna Hazare tries to change things, we begin to find fault with his ways. I could have just sat and made money. But I am doing it so that BSF has more pilots who can fly VIP,” Sangwan said.
The BSF Air Wing has a fleet of MI-17 helicopters and an Embraer. While the helicopters are routinely used for relief and rescue of central armed police forces and occasionally for VIP flying, the Embrarer is used to fly the home minister.
Since the BSF Air Wing does not have its own pilots of the grading required to fly VIPs, serving and retired IAF pilots routinely join the organisation. However, since it involves civilian flying, IAF pilots have to go through rigorous Embraer training in France and then have to pass the IAF’s Air Crew Examination Board exams – written and practical – to quality and get rated as pilots. To fly a VIP, however, they have to clock in enough flying hours.
Since the Air Wing is unable to afford such flying hours, it offers its pilots to fly corporate Embraer aircraft free of cost. BSF sources said Sangwan had not been rated as a PIC and could not have been allowed to fly an Embraer.
According to Agarwal’s complaint, a mail was written to L&T on behalf of Alt Account Manager of the BSF Air Wing offering Sangwan’s services. A second mail was written on Agarwal’s behalf on June 26 highlighting Sangwan’s experience and abilities.
It described Sangwan as an “accomplished pilot” from an Air Force background with “4000h of total flying experience spanning over 24 years of active flying career”. The mail said he had been an instructor in the Air Force and “is a PIC on Emb 135 BJ being flown by BSF under IAF rules”. It further said the pilot did not need “special training flying”.
On July 6, however, when L&T contacted Agarwal through his office for some clarification, he was shocked to know that he had recommended Sangwan. In his complaint, Sangwan has written, “On 6 July, 19 I received a call from operations manager, L&T …that somebody with my name has been corresponding with the company for the past 10 days WG Cmdr JS Sangwan had a scheduled flight on 08 July, 19 based on my request. …I never did any correspondence (with L&T).”
In the complaint, Agarwal goes on to say that a lot of misleading facts have been mentioned in the mails written by Sangwan. “It has been written in Para 2 (of the June 26 mail) that the pilot is a PIC on EMB 135 BJ being flown by BSF under IAF rules. This is not true as the pilot does not have the required category under IAF rules and does not even qualify for a co-pilot as per present category and instrument rating.”
The complaint further states, “It is written on my behalf that there no need to provide special training flying but I have no authority to give such a clearance for civil operations.”
The complaint also notes that all mails after being sent had been deleted and BSF had to retrieve them from the trash folder.