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
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
"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.