I received this tribute to Group Captain Perumal Alagaraja, who was decorated for flying operations in the 1999 Kargil War. The officer passed away in January this year of a heart attack. This is by the officer's friend, Radharamanan:
Group Capt Perumal Alagaraja passed away on the 7th of Jan. He retired from the IAF and was a Kingfisher Airlines pilot. A good friend of mine. He died of a heart failure. He was awarded the Shaurya Chakra for gallantry in the Kargil war. A very unassuming chap with humble beginnings, his father was a flower shop owner in the town of Rajapalayam in Tamil Nadu. He passed through Sainik School Amaravati near Coimbatore. After NDA and flight school he was posted to the 106 Recce sqdn where he spent his entire air force career . He also did a stint in staff college Wellington and was posted to Air HQ Delhi. He was one of the senior most experienced pilots on the Canberra. He used to recollect his experiences in the Kargil war.
Then Squadron Leader Alagaraja Perumal was on the second run of a photo reconnaissance mission flying very close to the LoC at Batalik on May 21, when a stinger missile hit the jet pipe of his Canberra's starboard engine. Perumal managed to return to Srinagar after a courageous 45-minute flight. For the first time in IAF history, a missile-hit plane managed a safe return.
He also told me he had the gyros of the stinger missile that hit his engine and apparently it had got stuck in wing after the explosion. He described to me in detail the day he got hit by a missile .After hearing a loud bang, the Canberra started shuddering and realized that he had been hit, this was confirmed by a MiG-29 that was flying CAP nearby. He was given the choice to bail out by the base but chose to stay with the aircraft. After he checked all the vital parameters he found he could control the aircraft. His Instrument panel was out. So guided by a another aircraft he made a safe landing in Srinagar AFB. Baliing out of a Canberra is a tricky business as they don’t have ejection seats .The crew have to strap on their parachutes ie the pilot and navigator and exit via a hatch! I really don’t know how the crew can do that with an out of control aircraft! He would love explaining the reach of the Canberra and that it was a classic that few other aircraft could match.
He was QFI as well and used to tell me how he encouraged his students that if they had the passion they could excel and it was not necessary to be from a well off family to become a pilot in the airforce, He would have been one of the few officers who sent money home to his parents, as generally one is given to believe that a majority of pilots hail from upper middleclass backgrounds.
Fly to your maker my friend and R.I.P.
Photo of officer with Canberra / Bharat-Rakshak
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