Navy's Sea Harriers Airborne Again

Less than a week after the Navy lost a committed young pilot Lt Cdr Saurav Saxena in a Sea Harrier fighter crash off the coast of Goa, the fleet was made airborne again today, sources confirmed. In what seems to me to be a true tribute to the memory of the young pilot, the Navy went through the motions and began Sea Harrier flights earlier today.

Coincidentally, when Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta was asked this afternoon about (erroneous) reports that the Harrier fleet had been grounded following the August 21 crash, he thundered, "Who has grounded them? Have you grounded them? I certainly have not." Obviously he's right. The fleet was never grounded. No recommendation was made by the Navy in Goa to HQ to effect grounding of the fleet, simply because they are thorough professionals. Nobody wants a knee-jerk grounding without understanding precisely what made the aircraft go down. After any crash, there is an default period -- the length of which varies -- of no flight for the type, during which a laid-down routine of specific tests are conducted. This is not the same as grounding the fleet, a far more serious decision whenever it is taken. The checks conducted during the post-crash period may lead to a recommendation for fleet grounding, but in this case it did not happen, thankfully. Grounding a fleet is an unnerving, difficult decision on any military commander.

Godspeed to our Naval aviators and their beautiful birds. Shano Varun.

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