Twice Lucky: Pilot In Yesterday's Su-30 Crash Also Survived 1st MKI Crash In 2009

Two crashes five years apart. Two punch-outs. Two very close shaves. Twice lucky. That's the story of the pilot in command of the Su-30 MKI that crashed yesterday in Pune: Because it turns out he was also the pilot in command of the first Indian Su-30 MKI that crashed in 2009. And both crashes with apparent similarities.

Wing Commander Sidharth Vishwas Munje survived the Su-30 MKI's first crash in Indian service five years ago, while his co-pilot on that flight Wing Command Pushpendra Singh Nara succumbed to injuries sustained post-ejection. In yesterday's crash, both Munje and his co-pilot Flying Officer Anup Kumar survived without any major injuries and currently being treated at a Pune military hospital.

Similarities too. Both times, Munje and his co-pilot ejected at very low altitude. [Not engine trouble the first time as I earlier wrote -- see Jagan Pillarisetti's post in comments and this post he points out which reported the 2009 crash]. In 2009, a technical glitch had triggered a series of events that resulted in the inadvertent switching off of power to the flight control system (instead of the armament master switches right next to it), boiling down in the investigation technically to a pilot error, though overall to a design anomaly that needed urgent correction. Either way, the 'pilot error' conclusion wasn't enough for the IAF to keep Munje away from a cockpit.

Details of precisely what went wrong yesterday though are still trickling in, but what's available strongly suggests that Munje and his co-pilot were heroes in the air yesterday. They grappled to control a doomed fighter and eject only after ensuring it would glide into a sugarcane field, away from a built-up area that may have been the site of impact had the pilots chosen to eject earlier. The zone where the aircraft may have gone down is a built up area that has therefore likely had a close shave. [Update on Oct 22: The IAF has clarified that the crash took place during final approach, and that the ejection seats inadvertently fired].

The IAF is still piecing together the full sequence of events, though it appears clear at this time that Munje and his junior had mere seconds to take a decision after lift-off. It isn't clear yet what happened once they got airborne from Lohegaon. Will be staying with this story to get you more this week.

Photo / The Indian Express

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