Thursday, February 21, 2019

'Flying is risky, but we are trained and resilient': IAF's Sarang team aerobats to TNM

Aero India 2019 kicked off on Wednesday with three jets -- Jaguar, Sukhoi-30 Mki and Tejas -- paying tribute to Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi, who lost his life during a practise sortie ahead of the show.

Sahil Gandhi was a part of the 12-member Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team, known for flying its Hawks in close formations. The team, however, did not perform on Wednesday. But several displays paid tribute to the deceased wing commander, including the Sarang Helicopter Display Team.

“Flying is a risky business and at times such instances happen. We are all trained and emotionally resilient to be able to move on and cope with it. Life goes on, we cannot stop and there will be lessons drawn on how to go about things when such instances occur. That is how it is,” says Wing Commander Girish Komar, who has been with the team for eight years.

TNM spoke to a few members of the Sarang Helicopter Display Team about their journey and the challenges they face on the job:

Tell us about your journey with the Sarang display team.

Wing Commander Girish Komar: I have been with Sarang with eight-and-a-half years now. I had a tenure earlier with four years prior to this and this is my second innings. It was very exciting when I was inducted into the team. I was way too young then and way too junior and just had over 5 years’ experience in flying after being commissioned. It was a matter of pride for me to have been selected because all the pilots are selected through a small selection process after helicopter pilots volunteer to be a part of it. Thereafter they are selected for the team. It was a matter of pride for me to be selected at such a young age. The selection process is based on basic flying skills and the close formation flying skills. It is also about whether you are a team player and how well you gel and how professionally sound you are. All those aspects are looked into.

Squadron Leader Sneha: My brother is in the armed forces and when I used to see him in the uniform, I wanted to be a part of it too. I love flying and I am not afraid. It is thrilling and my love for flying drove me to volunteer for the Sarang team. It is every helicopter pilot’s dream.

At any given point, do any of you feel scared?

Squadron Leader Janpriya: No, we don't ever feel scared because we go through an established method of training and we learn how to fly during this process. Yes, there is a little apprehension when you fly for the first time but it's more thrilling than scary. Currently, we have enough experience to fly and just feel the adrenaline. Initially, there was a lot of adrenaline, but now it’s not so much. I have gotten used to it.

Squadron Leader Sneha: You get rid of those at training level. When a person becomes qualified, the person is able to handle all contingencies and become independent. It is a part of training. Every year we have two to three new members who keep rotating. Three years ago, before that I was flying Chetak Cheethas. Second Aero India. It is very thrilling. It is a lot more exciting in the cockpit, even more than it is when watching a display.
20/02/19 Theja Ram/News Minute
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