‘Within seconds I was in sky, I felt inspired’

Last Updated: Thursday, November 26, 2009 - 00:21

Pune: When Wing Commander S Sajan, who
operated the Sukhoi-30 flight, asked President Pratibha Patil
whether she would like to do manoeuvring, the gritty lady`s
reply was "Oh Yes".

"During the flight I moved the aircraft twice in the left
and right direction. Once I lowered the altitude and also took
it higher," Patil, who made history by becoming the first
woman head of state to fly in a fighter jet, said in an
interaction with media after landing at IAF base here today.

Asked how she felt while taking off, the 74-year-old
President said, "Within seconds I was in the sky. I felt
inspired. The aircraft was flying at 700 kmph. It was
increased to 800 kmph when I asked him (Sajan) if we could
travel faster."

Patil said Sajan kept her informed about the topography
of the landscape the aircraft was flying over.

"We first crossed over Rajgurunagar, then Shirur and
Baramati (in Pune district). I waved at the escort aircraft as
they flew in close formation," she said.

The President said she enjoyed the flight and was proud
of the "efficiency and expertise" of the country`s defence
forces.

Patil had donned a `G-suit`, worn by fighter pilots to
counter gravitational effect due to any high speed air
manoeuvres, while taking the sortie.

Earlier, President’s aircraft commanded by Sajan, who heads the Sukhoi Rhino Squadron, took off smoothly in the slightly chilly, but sunny early winter morning from the air base on the outskirts of the state`s IT and academic capital at around 10.55 am.

During the approximately 20 minute sortie, the aircraft flew at an altitude of 10,000 feet at a speed of around 800 kmph or 0.9 Mach, which is just short of the supersonic levels of around 1,100 kmph. At that speed and altitude, the President would have been exposed to gravitational force up to level 2G.

The IAF had chalked out a special rectangular pattern of navigation route for Patil’s maiden sortie. However, considering her age, the flight was designed to be a basic flight, with not the kind of combat manoeuvres that fighters generally do.

Shortly after her arrival at the air base, Patil - the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces - was accorded a ceremonial guard of honour by a smartly-turned out contingent of air-warriors donning the IAF colours of sky-blue shirts and black trousers.

Then, Patil had breakfast and underwent a mandatory pre-flight medical test and was found fit to undertake the flight.

Present to witness the epoch-making occasion were Maharashtra Governor SC Jamir and Air Chief Marshal PV Naik.

Patil’s predecessor President Kalam’s had also flown a Sukhoi in 2006, that flight too did not touch supersonic speeds.

Before Kalam, then Defence Minister George Fernandes had flown supersonic in the Sukhoi in May 2004, clocking 1.15 Mach (about 1,500 kmph).

Medvedev congratulates Patil for her `heroic act`

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday congratulated President Pratibha Patil for her 30-minute sortie on a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet, describing it as a `heroic act` and a `bright symbol` of bilateral relations .

"The Russian President, who has previously flown in Sukhoi Su-34 frontline bomber, is well aware of the gravity and strain endured in such flights, expressed his earnest admiration at, without exaggeration, the heroic act of Pratibha Patil," the Kremlin said in statement.

Congress party congratulates Patil on Sukhoi flight

Congress on Wednesday congratulated President Pratibha Patil for creating history by becoming the first woman head of state to fly in a fighter jet "We congratulate the President for creating history,"
party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan told reporters here.

74-year-old Patil also set a world record by becoming the oldest woman to be airborne in a combat jet for a 30-minute sortie at a speed close to the supersonic level.

- PTI



First Published: Thursday, November 26, 2009 - 00:21

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