Student flies fighter aircraft
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Last Updated: Sunday, February 13, 2011, 19:20
Bangalore: It was case of dream coming true for 22-year-old Shashank, who had never flown in his life before, to not only go on his maiden flight on Sunday but also take controls and fly the state-of-the art combat aircraft, Saab's Gripen, on the concluding day of Aero India show here.

For Shashank, who had never stepped into an aircraft before, "it was dream come true", when his name was selected as the winner of a month long campaign run by Swedish defence major Saab, as part of the Aero India show, to have a ride on the multi-role combat aircraft.

The aircraft is a contender for the USD 10 billion medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contract in India.

Shashank, a local engineering college student, had entered the contest and beat scores of others to win the coveted "once-in-a-life-time" opportunity.

"I am really lucky," said Shashank, who skipped his exam today to take the ride. "Such an opportunity is not easy to come by," he said after his over 50 minute sortie.

Shashank is an avid aviation enthusiast who spends on an average nearly one-and-a-half hours daily playing aviation computer games.

Dressed in a green pilot uniform with the word squadron emblazed on it, the bespectacled boy said: "The acceleration was very high for me as I have never sat in a plane before. But once we took off, I got accustomed to the aircraft and things around me."

"I was allowed to take control of the aircraft for sometime. Though initially when I took control, the aircraft dropped in altitude, I was through able guidance able to steer it to the right altitude," he said.

Shashank, who flew with Chief Test Pilot Robin Norlander, was given an extensive briefing by the Gripen team before taking to the skies.

He also went through a simulator yesterday, where he beat four other contenders in the final round to win today's flight opportunity.

"I think my experience in simulator games helped me".

It was a dream come true sitting along with veteran combat aircraft pilot Robin and viewing the sky from a height of 15000 ft, he said.

Robin said, "For me it was a new experience, to fly with a person who has never flown before. But I must say he was good and knew all about aircraft flying, perhaps due to his simulator games on the computer".

The Swedish company said the contest was to familiarise people about available Swedish technology and to get someone to fulfil their dream.


First Published: Sunday, February 13, 2011, 19:20

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