The IJT Mishap: Eyewitness Account

What follows is an eye-witness account of the IJT accident at Aero India 2007 that we've discussed here before. This is an account by Aditya Chauhan in the IAF's Flight Safety journal of this month. Chauhan is a CPL holder on the threshold of flying the big jets. Here's his account, and I guess it puts a few things to rest like whether the IJT lifted off or not:

Canopy Opening During Take-Off
By Aditya Chauhan

Being an amateur photographer and having completed my civil flying training, Aero India 2007 provided the right opportunity to satisfy the aviator and photographer in me. It was a bright sunny day and I was on the tarmac, standing in the shade under the wing of the massive Beriev 200 aircraft (Water Bomber), while watching the impressive flying display by aircraft from all over the world and clicking photographs of my favourites. The piercing sun made th 25°C seem much hotter and most pilots kept their canopies partially open (taxy position) while taxying, to get a breath of fresh air.

At around 1500h, the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) taxied out while the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was carrying out an impressive flying display. The IJT had to hold on the apron till the LCA completed its display and the period was long (about ten minutes) and presumably frustrating too. Having flown light aircraft from an international airport, I too have been through situations wherein we had to hold in the hot sun while big jets came in for landing. It is exhausting and after such waiting many a times people miss out vital checks in a hurry once cleared for line up and take off.

The LCA landed and was now taxying back to its parking slot, when the IJT was cleared for takeoff. By now, I was tired and decided to find some lunch. It is said that while returning after visiting the magnificent Taj Mahal, one normally turns around to have a last loot at it to admire its breathtaking beauty. I too was so enamoured by the air show that I turned around to have one last look at the runway.

As I turned around I saw the IJT rolling for takeoff. I saw it lift off smoothly and climb away. But it all changed the very next moment and what I witnessed is a pilot's worst nightmare. The IJT soon feel back on the runway with its right wing dipped and yawing viciously to the right -- the aircraft had almost turned 70°. On impact the right oleo collapsed and the right wing tip scraped the runway. I soon realised that the canopy had opened and the aircraft continued to yaw to the right. The IJT went off the runway and by now was on its belly. The red dirt flew all around the aircraft (seen on most news channels) while it came to a stop on the runway shoulder and the Craft Fire Fighing Rescue (CFFR) crew were at the scene in no time. I then saw the pilot climbing out and it was a relief seeing him walk around the damaged aircraft, which implied he was not injured, and was soon taken to the hospital. The aircraft was covered by dust and the magnificent white colour had turned brown. I was shocked by what I had just witnessed.

Aditya Chauhan's Analysis

The takeoff roll, rotation and initial climb appeared normal. During the climb out, the canopy opened due to some problem (wonder if it was opened during the long wait on ground?). The IJT has a single piece canopy for both the pilots (tandem seat) and is fairly large in size. Opening of such a large canopy in the air must have induced tremendous drag and a yaw to the right. The aircraft could no longer climb and hence it came back on the runway. It was a very unusual accident as the opening of the canopy did not result in its flying off as one would think it normally should. Instead it hung on, causing the aircraft to yaw to the right and crash land in a peculiar manner. Am pretty sure that extensive investigations must have been carried our and remedies, if any, would be incorporated.

I also happened to sight a Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinder (Zon Gun) very close to the crashed aircraft. The aircraft had missed the cylinder by approximately ten feet. A high energy impact could have caused an explosion of the highly inflammable cylinder. I am aware there are 10 to 12 such devices placed on the unway shoulders at many air force bases. Those concerned must be looking at this?

Also, having noticed some photographers standing very close to the runway for filming, I feel it is unsafe for any human being to be so close to the aircraft manoeuvering areas. The exuberance may claim a life one day. Being an aviator and an ardent fan of all the flying jocks in our indomitable Indian Air Force, sharing my thoughts through these pages would allow me, amember of this wonderful air force family, to hopefully contribute my bit to flight safety.

(Photos ©Copyright Rahul Devnath/BR)

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