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Su 30 MKI fleet remains grounded,checks on

After the fatal crash in which one pilot was killed,the entire fleet of India’s most advanced fighter jet,the Su 30 MKI....

Written by Manu Pubby | New Delhi |
May 2, 2009 12:12:10 am

After the fatal crash in which one pilot was killed,the entire fleet of India’s most advanced fighter jet,the Su 30 MKI,remained on the ground for the second consecutive day while IAF technicians carried out checks on the aircraft.

A senior officer said that while the reliability of the aircraft is not in question,the fighters did not fly on Friday as “precautionary checks” are being carried out to rule out any fault. Confirming that no flights took place at Pune or Bareilly,the two airfields where the fighters are based,the officer said that fighters will stay on the ground till the IAF is fully satisfied that they are fit to fly.

As first reported by this newspaper,the fleet was grounded immediately after Thursday morning’s crash near the Pokharan firing ranges in which one pilot,Wing Commander P S Nara,was killed while the other survived.

While a detailed court of inquiry has been ordered into the accident,the first ever for the MKI version of the Su 30 that was inducted in 2002,fresh details have emerged about the crash that practically rule out pilot error.

Sources familiar with the investigation say that the fighter,which was flying as part of a four-aircraft group at over 20,000 feet,went into an involuntary ‘bunting’ manoeuver that tossed it around at an angle of 270 degrees.

Following the violent manoeuver,the fighter plummeted to the earth in an uncontrollable spin and did not respond to controls,forcing the two pilots to eject. An official said that this could point to either a technical fault or some sort of structural damage to the fighter.

However,IAF officers are confident that the fighter will take to the skies soon after the inspection checks are carried out. “The Su 30 MKI is one of the most reliable fighters we have. It has had a great safety record but accidents happen. Even the most advanced American F 22 Raptor has suffered two crashes,” a senior officer said.

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