Military jet's fiery crash draws focus on India's "Flying Coffins"

The crash of yet another Indian warplane has sparked fears about the country's ageing fleet of MiG-21 jets which experts say are nothing short of "flying coffins" in the hands of novice air force pilots.

Last Updated: Aug 07, 2000, 00:00 AM IST

The young pilot of an MiG-21 supersonic fighter jet slowly burned to death Saturday when his 40-year-old plane cart-wheeled in the air after taking off and crashed in a New Delhi military airbase, located near a densely-populated civilian district.
The Indian Air Force (IAF), the world's fourth largest, blamed the accident on bird-hit but aviation experts said they were unimpressed with the official explanation, the seventh involving MiG-21s since April this year.

Fifty-nine Russian-made IAF MiG-21s have crashed since 1995, killing 22 pilots and leaving another 10 injured. More than 80 percent of them were not trained to handle the aging supersonic jets.
Such crashes have crossed the three-digit mark in the past decade.
Experts said Saturday's crash also underlined the need to speed up the acquisition of long-awaited Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT) for IAF greenhorn fliers.

"Most of these aircraft have accidents because of the absence of an AJT," said Kapil Kak, a former IAF Air Vice Marshal. "Basic skills of the younger pilots are not honed for the transition from a transonic training profile to a supersonic profile of a MiG plane," said Kak, a MiG test pilot.
Report : Zeenext Bureau