By Air Commodore Krishnamurthi Rajaram
Due credit to Randhir Chadda who gave a new meaning to the term PPLR one day in 1975, when he walked into our wooden shack crew room at 31dumbell at Srinagar and announced in his usual droll manner, “Today the Gnat has completed a 100 hours on me.” Cut to 1991. Fifteen hundred take-offs, clinging on to her controls and, fortunately, the same number of arrivals on wheels later, she still took me for a ride!
The Gnat, she took two mins to twenty,
She hauled up to hard stop at 10G,
Bent thrust and more,
Log hours, she’s got twel’ hundred on me!
By Wg Cdr Prakash S Sanadi (Retd)
26 April 1971 to 31 May 1971, a period 36 days of armament training was planned and executed at Air Force Station, Jamnagar. Prior to departure of the squadron, W/C JW Greene, OC 2 Sqn., ordered all officers proceeding on detachment to carry their PT kits. He stressed, everyone to carry PT shoes!! All the officers thought that he meant, PT dress would be worn at work in the afternoon & evenings!! Sqn Ldr K De laughed it off and made sure he would carry only his flying boots as he did not possess PT shoes. On landing in Jamnagar, we went to the Officers Mess to settle into our designated rooms. We were about to disperse, when the CO told everyone to fall in – in PT kit at 6pm in front of the Officers Mess!! Everyone was stumped as to what was to follow.
At 6pm the fall in took place. Crow De in his PT kit wearing flying boots! Leading the pack Johnny Greene started to jog towards the airfield, with all the officers following. We entered the airfield area, turned round and headed back to the mess. On reaching the mess we found Crow De walking back, way behind. When he reached the Officers Mess, Johnny Greene asked him what had happened. Sheepishly, Crow said he didn’t have PT shoes and by running with the flying boots on, he had blisters on his feet. Promptly Crow then went to a shoe shop in the market and bought himself a pair of running shoes realising Johnny Green meant business. There after every evening the squadron officers led by the Boss went for a nonstop run and each day he kept increasing the distance. Lights out was 10pm for one & all. In the morning at work, all the pilots were on their toes, eager to get airborne and prove their worth. Afternoons were spent harmonizing the gun sights with Boss explaining how to do it, as he was an expert in this area. Sadly, soon, the detachment was coming to an end, even then none of us realised what was the Boss’s ultimate plan. Till, the day before the departure all the officers led again by Wg Cdr JW Greene ran the complete distance starting from the officers mess to the beginning of the runway via the taxi track, down this runway, along the taxi track to the cross runway. Down the cross runway, back along the taxi track and the road to the Officers Mess – ALL NON-STOP- At a rough guess the total distance covered non stop on that day must have been close to 12 to 14 Kms! The detachment went off without a hitch, no hic-ups at all. Crow De (Late) included. May his Soul Rest in Peace. I think this record run has never been achieved by any squadron in the IAF till today.
That’s WG CDR JW GREENE to all of us who served under him (Retired as Air Marshal & settled in Colaba, Mumbai, Tel No 022-22875324)
By Shyam Hattangadi
These, among many others, occurred while I was on Gnats.
The first was where an aircraft was started and the engine went to full power, the aircraft jumped the chocks and crashed through the wall of the Flight Commander’s office – Jit Dhawan – whose utter shock of suddenly finding a Gnat nose next to his chair, can only be imagined. Apparently, a techie on an earlier shift had disconnected the throttle connection next to the engine, which, being spring loaded to full open position, stayed there. In the next shift, without knowing the situation the aircraft was started up for a ground run leading to the consequences. I only heard about this incident and someone who was present there may be able to elaborate on it.
In the second incident, I was involved. I started an aircraft for an air test when suddenly the RPM began to increase rapidly. Throttling back had no effect nor was putting the HP cock off. The RPM kept rising and I fully expected the aircraft to jump the chocks when after a few hair-raising moments, it began to reduce and finally the engine shut itself off. In the meantime there were frantic gestures from outside to switch off the aircraft little knowing my predicament.
What had happened was that when the engine was started, the fuel cap on the spine not having been closed properly had popped open and fuel had begun to gush out. This fuel flowed down on to the upper surface of the wing and began to get sucked into the intake, setting up a perpetual cycle with no way of interrupting it even with the HP cock off. Fortunately, a little later, the wind shifted enough to cut the supply to the intake off and the incident did not result in a catastrophe as in the earlier case.
By Air Cmde Gurdip Bal
Pre 1965 period a pilot posted to Gnats was considered a dead man. So two pilots were posted from flaming arrows to gnats (15 sqn). Farewell was worded “hope to see you again ”
However we did not loose heart and proceeded to sqn on posting. After all the formalities we both were cleared for solo by hooka upkar singh. Shyam Hattangadi and self were to do our first solo on Gnat E-229 (premod a/c for jet pipe). This blooming a/c had a pronounced swing on t/o. Both of us got airborne almost on kutcha, thanks to good thrust and clean configurations. We both were reluctant to report this fact to the flt cdr with the fear that we may be sent for another dual check that is a visit to KKD from Bareilly.
Pat Singh being a senior Flt LT in the sqn took up the clean a/c for aerobatics. He faced the same problem and abandoned the take off. When he asked us about the bent thrust, we meekly told him the truth. A/c was grounded and a test pilot from Kanpur flt visited the base for investigation. Air Mshl P Singh recommended the jet pipe change and the later modification of the jet pipe is a history. I am proud to say that i stuck to Gnats for longest period of its hey days, ie 11 years out of 18 years of my active flying service. I could still jump into a Gnat cockpit and proudly get airborne. That is the confidence we had in Gnats despite teething problems.
By Gp Capt MO Blake VrC (Retd)
I was the Chief Instructor in Jamnagar when Mally Wollen’s Gnat Squadron arrived. I was advised NOT to use full throttle on take off. I’m afraid I ignored the advice and used full throttle!
As a result the little B ran away from me when I got airborne!! My nose was
approaching almost the vertical upwards position before I got the trimmer going to bring it to a level position!!! I will never forget the flight. I really enjoyed the rest of it! That was the one and only flight I had on the Gnat. It was an eye opener
By Air Cmde AD Chhibbar,AVSM (Retd)
The course at OCU got over and two of us course mates (Chimpy Koshal and I) were posted to 24 Sqn (Hawks) at Kalaikunda. Eager to be the first one to fly, I reported to the Sqn a couple of days before Chimpy. We were briefed before leaving OCU that at the new squadron one must present oneself at the Flight Commanders office immaculately dressed, wearing a peak cap and carrying the log book. The first day at the squadron was quite exciting. The flight commander (Chacha Malik) was in his office and I walked in, smartly saluted and said “Plt Officer Chhibbar reporting, Sir!”. He looked at me and screamed “GET OUT. I will call you”. A little taken aback, I retreated to the crew room.
Within a few minutes the Flt Cdr walked in and said ” Where is your overall. Change and report to me”. I was so elated that on day one I would be flying in the squadron. I rushed back to my room,picked up the overall and literally ran back to the sqn. Changed quickly and with great expectations of a dual check went to the Flt Cdr’s office. He asked me to follow him into the hangar, pointed to a Gnat and said “Clean it”. I was stunned and could do nothing but stand speechless. He looked at me with “Hawkish” eyes (We were the Hawks after all) and said “Didn’t you hear me? Clean it. I want it shining”.
I managed a rag and commenced cleaning it thinking it would be OK to dust it. But the Flt Cdr was keeping a watch and said “Shining means SHINING. Let me know when you are finished , I will inspect it”. I went to the store room and got some thinner and commenced the given task, It took me better of three hours to really do a good job. (After all being ex-NDA, I had been through many a “cabin-cupboards”). Around, 3 pm I informed the Flt Cdr that the aircraft was ready. I had really done a good job and was admiring the shine when the Flt Cdr arrived in overalls slid under the tail, touched the skid and came up with finger smudged in oil. “You call this CLEAN?”. Arms aching, anger in my eyes I “attacked” the Gnat once again. It took me another hour to really get under the belly and get the under-surface cleaned up.(And learnt that the skid was 9″ from the ground, there were numerous drains and holes for various functions etc). Finally I was told, “OKAY. It is satisfactory.” The icing on the cake when the adjutant (Madhu Sohoni) came up to me and said that the Base Ops Officer was not feeling well and I am to replace him immediately.
It surely was a very memorable “first day” with the “Crazy Hawks”!!
By Air Cmde RV Phadke (Retd)
This happened exactly thirty one years ago while I was posted at Hindan. Within a few months of my reporting to No. 23 Sqn. (from DSSC) that was slated to convert to MiG-21 Bis aircraft, all the pilots and aircraft assets were transferred to No. 9 Sqn which was co-located. Flying was at best sporadic. What with modification to Mark 1A the Gnat squadrons were once again experiencing poor serviceability.
By the end of September I had barely flown 35 hours even though I was medically fit and available throughout. On 30 Sep 77 I was to ferry a Gnat to 5 BRD Sulur. With me was Benji who was to go to Bangalore. As I was strapping up, the Instrument Warrant Officer walked up to the side and said with a straight face that the invertor was U/S. When I said I would wait for them to replace it, his reply was that the squadron did not have any. Was I to go without one? This meant no Artificial Horizon, G4F Compass except in the DG mode and most importantly no fire warning system. Sure enough, when the engine started the Doll’s Eye was white and remained so for the entire ferry. Take off and navigation to Jodhpur, refueling and further to Poona was uneventful. Since it was already afternoon, we decided to go to Bangalore/Sulur the next day. That afternoon, some six Gnats had also landed at Poona on their way from Jamnagar to Bangalore after some trials. One of them was Rusty and another CK.
Continue reading Memorable Gnat Ferry
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
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!!!