| Squadron Leader Kolal Krishnamurthy Venugopal (20459) Flying (Pilot) is on the posted strength of Aircraft System and Training Establishment (ASTE) since 29 June 1998 as Test Pilot & Chief of Trial Team SARAS.|
In Jan 02, ASTE was formally tasked to undertake flight testing of the Saras Light Transport Aircraft (LTA~ pro~ being indigenously designed and developed by National Aeronautics Laboratory (NAL). Sqn Ldr Venugopal, then a test flying instructor at AFTPS was specifically chosen to head the Saras test team on account of his flight test experience a project pilot for evaluating Executive Jets for the Air Force. This was an extremely challenging task as the Saras had a unique rear mounted pusher prop configuration and was the first indigenous LTA programme. With his maturity and personal involvement he was instrumental in finalisation of all the necessary documentation and co├»┬ĚÔÇťordination with Director General Civil Aviation (DGCA) as the team leader. He was directly responsible for finalisation of cockpit man machine interface and safety audit of the aircraft and its systems. He was also instrumental in planning, review, approval and execution of the entire test programme. He oversaw the continuity training and preparation of the other crew members of the team for the demanding task of undertaking the first flight and further evaluation of Saras ac. His dedication and hard work were commended and lauded by all the senior functionaries of NAL and MCA.
On 29 May 04, the first Saras Prototype took off on its first flight. First flight of a prototype aircraft is always a high risk proposition. The lack of an engineering test simulator, made the execution of first flight even more challenging. Soon after take off, the crew experienced Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS) and angle of attack indication failure, thereby losing vital flight information. Coupled to this, the aircraft experienced mild vibrations due to opening of the refuelling panel in flight. As the Captain of aircraft Sqn Ldr Venugopal maintained his cool and rose to the challenge of having to deal with a serious emergency on a prototype aircraft on its first flight. He exhibited exceptional professionalism and courage in handling the emergency and recovering the aircraft safely.
For displaying professionalism and courage, the Hon'ble President is pleased to award Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) to Squadron Leader Kolal Krishnamurthy Venugopal.