New Delhi/Ambala — An Indian Air Force (IAF) MiG-29 crashed Thursday but there were no casualties as the pilot ejected to safety before the aircraft went down, officials said.
“The aircraft was on a routine training sortie. The pilot ejected to safety and there was also no damage on the ground where the plane went down,” an IAF spokesperson in New Delhi said.
The aircraft had taken off from the Adampur airbase in Punjab Thursday and crashed minutes before it was to land at Ambala, the spokesperson added.
The pilot, Squadron Leader V. Naik, landed near the Ambala-Chandigarh national highway. He was rushed to the military hospital at Ambala where he was treated for minor injuries.
The aircraft crashed around 3.20 p.m. in open fields, about 12 km from the Ambala air force base.
Though the cause of the crash is not known, IAF sources said the pilot reported an engine problem. They indicated that this could have been caused by a bird-hit while the pilot was trying to land at Ambala.
The pilot tried to land with the second engine but that too developed a snag, following which he ejected, the officials said.
The IAF has ordered a court of inquiry into the crash.
Nearly a dozen farmers and farm labourers had a miraculous escape as the burning wreckage of the aircraft fell 100 metres away from them in an open field.
Farmer Balwant Singh, who was driving his tractor nearby, said the wreckage fell close to them. Those in the fields ran away to save themselves from the falling debris.
The falling aircraft also narrowly missed the Ambala-Chandigarh railway line by about 100 metres. IAF personnel and police cordoned off the area over which the wreckage was strewn.
This is the second crash of a MiG-29 this year.
On June 8, a twin-seat trainer version crashed into the sea off the country’s west coast but both pilots ejected safely.
Ironically, that crash occurred within an hour of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam creating history by becoming the first supreme commander of the Indian armed forces to fly in a Sukhoi SU-30 MKI jet of the IAF. The 30-minute sortie was from the Lohegaon IAF base in Pune.
Early in June, the IAF had called a press conference to announce its lowest ever accident rate – of 0.44 percent in every 10,000 flying hours – in four decades.
Five IAF aircraft – two MIG-29s, two MIG-21s and a Surya Kiran acrobatic aircraft – have crashed in 2006.
The defence ministry had in 2005-06 cleared a $888 million proposal to upgrade the MiG-29s – now down to 65 – but the project is likely to commence only in the current financial year and will be completed in four years.