Indian MiG-21 Bison crashes while landing in Rajasthan, pilot killed
A MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force crashed today while landing at Uttarlai airbase in Rajasthan's Barmer district, killing the pilot.
"One MiG-21 Bison crashed at the Uttarlai airbase at about 0930 hours. The pilot sustained fatal injuries," the IAF said in a statement.
The aircraft had taken off with its Flight Lieutenant-rank pilot from the airbase for a routine training sortie and crashed while landing at the runway, officials said.
Defence Ministry spokesperson in Jodhpur Colonel SD Goswami said a Court of Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the reason behind the crash.
There was no reported loss to civilian life or property, he said.
Last month also, a MiG-21 plane from the same airbase had crashed but the pilots had managed to eject safely. The vintage MiG-21s have been in service for over 40 years now and they are expected to continue flying till 2018-19 in view of the delays in the induction of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft.
The IAF had inducted over 900 MiG-21s in its fleet over a period of 40 years, half of which were lost in different crashes.
This year, this is the sixth crash involving an IAF aircraft and fifth of a fighter plane.
The aircraft which have crashed this year include one each of MiG-29, MiG-27, Su-30MKI and Mi-17V5 medium-lift helicopter. Two MiG-21s have crashed this year.
The cause of the accident is currently being investigated.
Poor flight safety is one of the most critical problems facing the IAF today. In the region of 1,000 combat aircraft have been lost to accidents since 1970, according to Indian media reports, including about half of the 900-strong MiG-21 fleet. Indeed, the loss rate of the MiG-21 has become so high that in recent years Indian media has begun referring to the Soviet-era aircraft as the "flying coffin".
In 2012, India's Defence Minister A K Antony disclosed that 33 fighter aircraft and 10 helicopters had been destroyed in accidents between 2008 and March 2012, killing 26 defence personnel and 13 pilots.
So far in 2013, two MiG-21s, a MiG-27 'Flogger', MiG-29 'Fulcrum', and an Su-30 'Flanker' aircraft have been lost to accidents, leaving one pilot dead. In addition, a Mil Mi-17V-5 'Hip' helicopter was lost while participating in rescue operations in the flood-affected north of the country, killing five.
The IAF's astonishingly high loss rate can be attributed to the obsolescence of aircraft, poor maintenance, inefficient rebuild programmes, a spares shortage, and inadequate pilot training. It is hoped that the introduction of new aircraft types, such as the Pilatus PC-7 trainer and Dassault Rafale fighter, coupled with the retirement of older types such as the MiG-21, will go some way to reducing the number of platforms and pilots lost to accidents.
Source: Uttarlai, Rajasthan: ndtv.com | Press Trust of India News /Janes News - 15 July 2013
Photo: The Indian Air Force MiG-21 Bison Fighter Aircraft (Photo by survivalistboards.com)