Kalaikunda: The youngest Indian Air Force pilot to have flown the MiG-21 FL fighter jet, which phased out after a glorious 50-year service, said flying the `dream machine` felt like he was closer to heaven.
"I am feeling proud. I still want to fly the aircraft," 27-year-old Flight Lieutenant L Nagarajan said after the phasing out ceremony of MiG-21 type 77 in the presence of Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne, Chief of Air Staff yesterday.
In a touching ceremony after a flypast by a formation of four MiG-21 FL in its last sortie yesterday, Nagarajan handed over form 700 (document log of an aircraft) of the iconic delta-wing fighter aircraft to the Air Chief, symbolically drawing curtains on one of the most enduring saga in IAF aviation history.
Asked how it felt to be the youngest pilot to fly the MiG-21 FL and handing over the log to the senior-most pilot in the force at present to have flown the aircraft, he said, "the feeling was great. I can`t explain. It’s a great privilege."
A total of 15 aircraft of this MiG variant were functional in the IAF and all of these were based at Kalaikunda, an official source said.
"I feel very happy. Every time I am flying a MiG-21, I am closer to heaven," Nagarajan said, adding, "Once you are in the aircraft, you feel no one can touch you."
Pointing out that the sobriquet `Flying Coffin` alluded to these MiG-21s, a number of which have been destroyed in accidents over the years, was a misnomer, he said, "There is nothing that this aircraft is dangerous. It is the same like any other aircraft."
Wing Commander Manav Kumaria, one of the pilots who flew the last sortie of the fighter aircraft that heralded the "supersonic era" in IAF, said "it is a momentous occasion. We have been practising for it."