The Phase out ceremony
The aircraft was officially phased out on December 16, 2004 at Hakimpet at a solemn ceremony conducted in the afternoon. The Air Officer Commanding, AFS Hakimpet, Air Commodore Rakesh Kacker VM received the Chief Guest for the event, Air Marshal B N Gokhale AVSM VM, Senior Air Staff Officer, Training Command.
|The final flypast by three Iskras escorted by two Kiran Mk IIs|
|As the Iskras approached the dias, the Kirans pulled up and away as the Iskras carried on.|
There were five Iskras put up as a static display at the venue. Three Iskras were earmarked for a flypast and two more were on standby. A simple flypast of three Iskras escorted by two Kiran Mk IIs was done after which, the Iskras carried out a head on ‘Trishul’ (Trident) pass over the dais.
|The Iskras pulled away seperately and then approached the saluting stand in a Head on “Trishul” pass followed by a peel off. They then finally came in to land.|
The Iskras were flown by the three senior most instructors, led by the Chief Instructor (Iskras) Wg Cdr Dabral. Also flying with the three instructors were three Flying Officers of the 173 Pilots Course, which is the last Iskra batch to finish training. After the flypast, all the aircraft landed back and the three aircraft taxied right upto the dais. The Instructors and the pupils got out of the aircraft and then were inspected by the Air Marshal Gokhale. Thus ended the last official ‘training’ sorties in which Instructors and Pupils flew together in the Iskras.
|TS-11 Iskra W-1760 flown by Wg Cdr SK Dabral, Chief Instructor (Iskras) and a Trainee pilot taxies in before the Dias. The crew members then got out for the inspection of the aircraft by the Chief Guest.|
Present during the occasion were many ex-Station Commanders who had worked with the Iskra. As the strains of ‘Abide by me’ were played out by the Army band in the sunset, there were many who felt emotional at the end of an era for the Iskra.
All the future training requirements at Stage IIa will now be done on the Kiran Mk1A aircraft, a predecessor of the Mk II, but flying with a Viper Turbojet engine instead of the Orpheus in the Mk II. All the Iskra QFIs were slated to be either posted out, or due to get converted on the Kiran. All this is an interim measure. The arrival of the Bae Systems Hawk trainer in a few years will set the stage for the Stage IIa training, while the HAL built HJT-36 is all slated to take over the Advanced Flying training at Stage II at Dundigal and Bidar.
|Iskra W-1741 is one of the three in the flypast. This aircraft stopped by the left of W-1760 for inspection by the Chief guest.|
At the time of this correspondents visit to Hakimpet, atleast 20 of the Iskras were in storage, having been withdrawn from use. Another 14 of the Iskras were deemed operational, even though only ten had the engine hours to fly. For the whole fleet, it was estimated there was only about 30 hours left to utilise. And within this 30 hours, the demands of the rest of the course syllabi, the requirement to do a dress rehearsal for the phasing out ceremony as well as the Combined Graduation Day Parade at neighbouring Dundigal two days later had to be met.
While these were certainly the last ‘Instructor-Pupil’ training sorties, The Iskras still had some more flying to do. For the Combined Graduation Parade (CGP) at Dundigal which took place two days later on December 18, 2004, , three Iskras led by Wg Cdr Dabral carried out a flypast with split precision, an one of the three Iskras peeled off and landed at Dundigal at the end of the parade, to be permanently consigned for display at the Academy. (The aircraft is W-1741, a 1996 replacement airframe from Poland).
|The Iskras followed up with another flypast on two days later on December 18th at the Air Force Academy, Dundigal.|
Atleast 27 of the 34 Iskra airframes have been allocated either for preservation or for Ground Instructional duties at various institutions in Training Command. Apart from the aircraft given to the AFA Dundigal, Iskras earmarked for preservations are slated to be sent to the IAF Museum, Palam, HQ Training Command in Bangalore, Station Museum Hakimpet and Flying Instructor School at Tambaram . The last remaining airworthy Iskras would be flown to their final destinations – the serviceable ones going for a Instructional Air Frame duty, the others to be road shipped. Where possible after the Iskras are flown out, a maintenance team will retrieve the engines back to Hakimpet where they shall be re-installed into other serviceable airframes to enable them to do their final flights.