A SUKHOI SU-30 MKI fighter aircraft from the Lohegaon Air Force Station crashed near Wadebholai, 25 km away from the city, yesterday. Fortunately, both pilots ejected safely and no one has been injured. The accident took place around 1.30 pm after the take off at 12:45 pm. Two officers, pilot Wing Commander VS Soham and the Weapon System Operator Flight Lieutenant Nautiyal parachuted in the nearby Hargude Wasti. They were taken to the Command Hospital for treatment.
According to IAF officials, the plane lost contact with the base's Air Traffic Control. A Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the incident. Addressing media-persons, Flag officer commanding Air Commodore VR Chaudhari said that the accident occurred because of a mechanical failure and the aircraft was piloted to a safe location before crashing.
Officials of Indian Air Force inspecting the site. Pics/Pooja Wagh
"It was a routine training sortie and we are searching for the Flight Data Recorder to get further leads into the incident", said Chaudhari, refusing to comment further. Both pilots Soham and Nautiyal reportedly have a credible flying experience of 16 and six years respectively.
The Sukhoi belongs to the No 20 'Lightening' squadron and is the eighth IAF plane to crash this year. This is also the third Sukhoi that has crashed. The earlier mishaps were in Rajasthan in 2009. While the first crash in April 2009 was a result of a failure in the aircraft's digital fly-by-wire system, the second incident in November took place near Pokhran after taking off from the Bareilly air base in Uttar Pradesh.
Eyewitnesses from the village, however, said they had seen two aircraft's, before one of them caught fire. Jitendra Mhaske, a watchman from a neighbouring bungalow, said he had been watching the two aircraft's practising manoeuvres for about 15 minutes. "I then saw one aircraft fly away, while the other came down," he said.
The land on which the aircraft crashed reportedly belongs to the Sadhu Waswani Mission. The Lohegaon base is also home to two other Sukhoi squadrons, namely the no 31 Lions and the no 30 Rhinos. Seven other IAF planes have crashed this year, including a MiG-21 Bison in Sirsa in Haryana on December 2. The IAF has lost 30 fighter aircraft's, of which 10 were lost in the past three years.