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Photos of Gnat celebrations on Photo Gallery

Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava: Calling all Gnat Fiends

The way you are being addressed in this post is not an accident. AVM Ajit Lamba along with other recipients got a mail from me which was addressed to Dear Fiends. He promptly phoned to ask if this was intentional. It was then a Freudian Slip, though the idea was right. This time it is intended as all of us are almost fiendishly attached to the type.

My wife and I had come to Gurgaon on the way to attend a wedding in Rajasthan. I used the opportunity to get some lessons from my son Kishore whose idea and work it was to create this site. It has proved to be a proper repository for information on the Gnat and now includes photographs. Adequate control was ensured on the site to not make it a totally public blog. I needed lessons on how to manage it (not always successfully). The lessons this time were for learning how to upload pictures to the Photo Gallery of the site.

Please follow down to Photo Gallery. Under Gnat Vignettes, three sub-albums cover arrival etc, the sessions, and lunch. The other independent albums are for the Dinner at Le Meridien and the Reunion at ASTE. Since I cannot name many people in the pictures, the picture captions are neutral: a single title and a serial number. I wonder if I should add the photographs from the Brotherhood functions in Pune and include albums for pictures received from the UK and the HAL. In any case, these will have to wait till I am back home in Bangalore.

I request the Gnatties to identify the personalities etc and discuss any pictures they want with friends. But for this, please do not use the gnat-people email address. All of you Gnatties have the email address of each other. Using the already distributed directory, please keep the one-to-one exchanges between yourself and your contacts.

If anyone needs to make a large print of any picture, please ask me for its un-altered original file. These vary from, 1 MB to 4 MB each. For smaller prints or saving the picture on your hard disk simply right click on it and save the file on your own computer

In view of my plans for access to photographs in this manner, I had arranged with Mr Kapil Chandni that he should only produce a set of two DVDs for the live recording of the Vignettes session. Each set of two DVDs should cost about Rs 150 plus postage. We should hear soon about them and they should get distributed as planned by him. I now have little do with this process.

I do have one anecdote up my sleeve to be added to the site. But I wonder why the Gnat fiends have not added to them. It is your site and it should keep growing. Please have a look at Site Statistics – top right (third item) of the site itself. As of now, we have had 28479 visits from 7496 separate computer locations and 87 visits today. The visitor count below Photo Gallery was  started a bit late and will soon be removed.

The site has been a bit inactive though visitors keep coming to it each day. It is now up to all of you to add your Gnat tales to share and inform others around the world about our aircraft. Surely, we have not covered all that we know about the Gnat and Ajeet. Stories and information for these aircraft cannot have already dried up. Please exercise the grey matter and let us have the benefit of your experience and knowledge, even the funny bits that tickled you sometime in the hoary past.

The Gnat Handling Flight

By Wg.Cdr.P.Ashoka

The Gnat mk1 made its appearance in the Indian skies in the late Fifties, when transonic aircraft with powered flight controls were first procured by the Indian Air Force. These were the French Mystére IV, the British Hunter, followed by the Gnat from a British Company called Follands.

The Gnat handling flight was formed in January 1960 at Kanpur with the task of flight evaluation of the aircraft before it entered squadron service with IAF. It was a part of Aircraft and Armament Testing unit (A&ATU), later to be renamed Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), now located in Bangalore. The Handling flight consisted of three pilots initially – Sqn Ldr MSD Wollen, Flt Lt VK Singh and Flt Lt P Ashoka, who carried out the bulk of flying. Two other pilots joined later for short periods – Flt Lt .Jakatdar and Flt Lt Satwant Singh. The mother organization i.e. A&ATU, was commanded by Wg Cdr S Das, the legendary test pilot, and had a number of other pioneer test pilots on its strength – Sqn Ldr CKV (Chandu) Gole, Flt Lt IM Chopra, Flt Lt A Sudhakaran, Flt Lt MW (Chuchu) Tilak and Flt Lt Jagat Mohlah. We in the Handling Flight were the only 3 Non-test pilots in that group!

Continue reading The Gnat Handling Flight

Gnat was a poor platform for cannon! Only 70% hits!

By Air Marshal Prakash Pingale

This happened at Jamnagar in early 1965, when our
sqn (7), had gone for the annual work out, including air-to-air live.
We youngsters would be desperately looking for a hole in the banner
after our air-to-air sortie.
Also at the time, Sqn Ldr Johny Greene and Flt Lt Muzzy Mazumdar,
were tasked to validate suitability of Gnat a/c as an air-to-air gun
platform. After 15 odd sorties each, their report concluded that Gnat
was not a very stable platform due to the Hobson Unit, changes in the
GGS resistances etc. Appended were the scores. Johny Sir’s average was
over 70%, and Muzzy Sir’s 50%! Their banners used to be riddled with

A narrow escape from automatic ejection, or worse

By AVM RD (Limy) Limaye AVSM (Retd)

It happened with me way back in Mar 78 at Bagdogra. I was then posted to 22 Sqn AF (Gnats) based at Hasimara as one of the 4 Sqn Ldrs. I had taken the Sqn Det to Bagdogra for an AD Ex with the SUs in that sector. On 16 Mar 78 I was on an ORP Msn with Sqn Ldr KC Tremehere as my No-2. That afternoon at about 1400h we were scrambled from S/By 5 Min on a Tgt which was S-SW of Bagdogra near Purnea. Scramble TO was normal and we climbed on the initial vector upto 22000 ft and at KG turned westwards towards Purnea. While approaching Purnea (we were then about 90 nm away) the SU ordered us to go ‘Buster’, I ordered the Msn accordingly. The ac was accelerating and I had seen my ASI coming to 380 kts. Moments later there were severe vibrations followed by a Big Bang. I found myself facing tremendous airflow, minus the canopy. I was expecting to get ejected automatically (having remembered all other such earlier incidents in the past), however, I found myself still in the cockpit. While all this was happenings which was no more than a few seconds, I had acted extremely quickly and had throttled back to idling and flicked my Air-Brakes Out and had done a kind of Half-Roll to the left (my No2 was on my Right in a fighting posn). The aim was to turn back for base, drop my speed and descend to lower heights. I managed to put the ac on a reciprocal course heading eastward with wings level and descending, the speed too was dropping fast. While all this was happening, my Helmet was trying to get lifted up but held firm – thanks to my Flying Instructor at JTW late Gp Capt AK Choudhary, VM (Mountaineer) whose words flashed through my mind “Your Helmet must be Uncomfortably Tight” and he used to insist on it. I had tightened my chin straps which I had always done that saved me. Moreover, my Visor too was down. In spite of these, my eyes were watering profusely and I could just about see things. I could hear only Strength 0-1 (very feebly) because of the loud noise created by the strong oncoming airflow. All these must not have taken more than a minute or so. I was now comfortable in the cockpit. I heard somebody telling me to “Eject”. However, since everything else – I mean all other flying and engine parameters – were normal, I decided to fly back the ac and attempt a landing back at Bagdogra. I had dropped my speed to 160 kts where it was comfortable to fly, from the point of view of the oncoming airflow. Unlike the MiG-21 or Hunter the front windshield panel is rather small in size which does not protect the pilot to that extent. I had to sit in one position slightly crouched and the movements were restricted. I now looked for the Ejection Seat Handle and found that it wasn’t there. I tried to put the Ejection Seat to Safe (the Knob/Lever is situated right behind the Pilot’s Head). I could not do so as the oncoming airflow was so strong that it was pushing my elbow back with force. After several attempts I gave up. I had checked my Seat Harness Straps which were locked and tight. I was quite prepared to get ejected, if it happened that way. This was my first ever sortie from Bagdogra and I was not very familiar with the area of operation but I knew the Narrow Siliguri Corridor between B’Desh and Nepal and that River Mahananda flows southwards from Siliguri. A while later I could see a shining river which I presumed as Mahananda and slowly executed a left turn towards North to Bagdogra. I was finding it difficult to turn the ac as the airflow which by then had scared the hell out me was hitting me from inside of the turn till I had established/stabilized in the turn. Anyway I was now flying along the River. A little later I heard a very familiar voice – that of Sqn Ldr CR (Chandu) Dantale, our senior Flt Cdr who was airborne from Hasi.  When he learnt about this emergency he flew to Bagdogra and south of it to look for me for giving whatever assistance I might need. He was asking me my ground position. I tried to tell him south of Bagdogra approaching base. Within a few minutes he called up to say that he had me in visual contact. He said that I was on track to the base and asked “What is your Height?” I instantly looked inside and found that I was continuing to descend below 5000 ft (that’s about 4000 ft agl). I woke up and slowly opened power and gradually climbed to 6000 ft (about 5000 ft agl). A safe height to fly, minimum height for safe ejection in Gnat was 500 ft agl. While concentrating on all other aspects I had completely overlooked this very vital aspect. I had asked for landing on RW-36  though I had scrambled from RW-18. I did not think it right to attempt to land on RW-18; it would have meant me flying close to Siliguri Town and go towards the Darjeeling Hills to make an approach from the North. Anyway I was cleared for RW-36. A little later I spotted the RW and executed a perfectly smooth landing. On landing first thing, after switching off the engine that I did was to put the Ejection Seat to Safe. The ac came to a halt at the ORP Dispersal where all concerned were there to receive me. The first question asked was,” Did you inadvertently pull the Canopy Jettison Handle?” The answer was NO. The red tell-tale thread was still in its place. On coming out of the cockpit I realized that my French G Suit was shredded on the shoulders due to the airflow. I later saw that my eyes were bloodshot red and both my shoulders and parts of the upper arms were lacerated. The Ejection Seat Handle had been pulled out of its housing in spite of the ac being Post-Mod (a Steel Plate had been fixed above the Ejection handle to prevent it from getting pulled out by the airflow in the reverse direction – backwards). The Handle wire which has seven strands had only two left on it and was flapping on the fuselage immediately behind the cockpit. . The technical investigation concluded that the Canopy probably opened due to the disengagement of the geometric locks which are near the canopy hinges. Secondly, the ejection plunger had been pulled up to halfway and that even with the alternate handle the Ejection Seat would not have fired. Well I was fortunate. The ac I was flying that day belonged to 15 Sqn AF which was under conversion to MiG-21s and was in the process of getting all their ac ready to be flown out to other Gnat Sqns in that very month. This ac had been place on the ORP after 25 Hours routine inspection (which entails a normal sortie and not an Air Test), because they wanted that ac to fly a sortie that very day, as there was not much flying in that Sqn (as most of the pilots had been posted out).

It’s a rather a long story but I thought I would give a first hand account.

Unearned glory can cost a lot!

By Air Cmde AD (Chibs) Chhibbar (Retd)

I was a young Flying officer detailed to fly as a No2 to the Flt Cdr (Sqn Ldr AK Choudhury) for a RP(T-10) sortie at Dulangmukh Range. The wav to DM Range was uneventful. We did the regulatory safety height run and then settled down to the circuit pattern. Chou fired the first rocket followed by me. Both rockets went in the desired direction without disturbing the target. Chou went in for the second pass and fired the rocket. I was on base leg then. The RSO called up” Rocket not sighted. Confirm NO FIRE”. Chou in his cool voice called up ” I have fired but the rocket has hit my drop tank. Chibs , setting course for base, join up”.(The T-10 rocket had a habit of going haywire since these were all life -expired. The rocket Chou fired, did a hard left on leaving the rails and blew off half of the left drop tank) Things happened so fast that I lost sight of Chou. So I asked him his position. “Over Helam III”, he called. I was foxed because around Tezpur there was “Helam I & Helam II” but where was this Helam III? So I belted towards Helam II hoping to catch up with chou there. Reached the point but no sight of Chou! So I decided to catch him at the rejoin point (Point South). But once again “No Joy”. In the mean time Chou called up “Approching High Key”. “AhaI I will catch him at low key” So I positioned myself over low key at a higher height but could not spot Chou. Then I heard a call ” Turning finals”. Thats where I spotted him and did a near Mach dive to catch up with him. My speed was a shade higher than him and as he touched down I overshot him, did a circuit, approach and landing. The CO (Indru Shahani) was in the ATC during the whole episode, quite oblivious of my predicament. When I reached the crew room, everyone was there. The CO put an arm around me and told the gathering “I am happy that a young, inexperienced pilot escorted the Flt Cdr right up to the touchdown point. This is how formation members must assist each other in an emergency”!!! It was a sheepish me who then set the record straight by narrating the facts. Result: I had to stand beer to everyone!!!