Category Archives: News

General News and Announcements

Our losses: Mourned by Gnat People


By AJ Singh (from Long Island NYC)
I thought I will let you know the sad passing away of the above all associated with the Gnats, as, even though many in the GNAT fraternity would know about their demise, some may not, and it would be like a legacy to mention about the deceased and pay respect to them as the year ends and a new one begins. You may like to post this information on the Gnat web site.
Maddu (MD Khanna), as I understand, died in his sleep of a heart attack in June. I got associated with Maddu when posted to the Winged Arrows under then Wingco Johnny Greene in August 1970. Maddu as a senior pilot and friend guided me to be a good officer and fighter pilot. I have flown numerous sorties as his No. 2 as ‘Pink 2’. We had a good rapport and he was confident that he could take on another pair in combat  confidently knowing that I was not a liability. We took part in the 1971 war from Amritsar as Greene’s boys. Maddu was still in the squadron when I left for FIS in December 1974. He was a good leader and in his Hyderabadi ways a joshy character. The negative angle of attack his moustache took when he got up from sleep in the morning was the only time he looked like a duck out of water. He got married to his equally joshy or more bubbly wife Shyamola because of him impersonating me at Srinagar taking my name not in vain, but in being able to successfully court her and finally win her hand. They have a boy and a girl, both married, and Shyamola gave me to understand recently that she is a grandmother. I very much wanted to have a drink with Maddu last October at Hyderabad, when I had made some grandiose plans to take a Deccan tour to meet my course mates from NDA and friends from the Air Force. It was not to be as I suffered an early injury due to a fall in the bathroom on my visit to India from the US. I will miss him. May His soul Rest in Peace.
Sudhir Asthana, my 34 NDA and 103 Pilots course, passed away at Delhi in early November fighting cancer all the way and making life comfortable for others in his joking way. He started his AF career as a Gnat Pilot in the Flying Bullets (Eighteen) and took part in the 1971 war from Amritsar when on attachment to the Winged Arrows. He was Air Attache here in the US when another course mate, close friend and squadron mate of mine and another Gnat Pilot Amritpal Singh Sidhu, who later died in an government of Chattisgarh helicopter in July 2006, visited the US. Sudhir is survived by his wife Jaya and daughter Ruchira. May Sudhir’s soul rest in Peace.
Mrs. Rita Poonia (Ritu to those who knew the family close), one of the bravest persons known to me who accepted the outcome of terminal cancer, passed away peacefully on December 09 at Sydney, Australia, holding the hands of her loved ones, husband Raj Kumar Poonia (another course mate, squadron mate flying Gnats/Ajeets in TWO twice, unit mate in Iraq and AFA), daughters Shewta and Shikha, and son in law Anuraag. I spoke to her in early November 2009 when she visited India to bid farewell to her relatives around the time Sudhir Asthana died. She sounded so calm and positive when I on this end knew perhaps I was speaking to her for the last time. When she was being taken by ambulance to the hospital for the last time, she calmed the ambulance paramedics saying that she is dying and that there is no need to rush concerned that her daughter Shikha was travelling with her.  She told them not to attempt any form of resuscitation. They, as Raju told me, switched off the sirens and did not make a dash. Even at the emergency room where she passed away she personally told the doctors to let her sleep peacefully and not to do anything. Brave woman. She was the rock of the family handling this genius of character with many ideas, Poonia. May Her soul rest in Peace.
Mrs. Cynthia Greene, passed away at INHS Ashwini on December 15, 2009 after bravely battling a couple of life threatening ailments for a few years. Air Marshal Greene, who had taken very good care of her at home, called me that Tuesday night to inform me of the sad news calmly but choking with emotion.  Mrs. Greene was laid to her rest on that Friday December 18. Till the last moment she was a fighter, and as Sanady said fully aware of her surroundings. She with then WingCo Greene were like parents to us in TWO to 10 ex NDA course mates who landed up in the squadron all at one time in August 1970 to fly Gnats. During our fledgling years during which we took part in the 1971 war from Amritsar and later she was a source of support for us and for the squadron wives. She replaced my lost rosary with one that belonged to her late daughter to keep me safe during the war. It is Mrs.Greene who told us the line “Gentlemen fly Hunters, Pilots fly Gnats.”as told to her, when in England, by Folland people comparing Gnats with Hunters. I will always enjoy with a smile remembering her calling me  “AJ, you blooming rascal.” A great Lady. May Her soul rest in Peace.
I take this opportunity to wish the Gnat Fraternity a Peaceful and Healthy New Year and to those still in the flying business ‘Happy Landings’.

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.

Reliving the days of Gnat’s glory

November 19, 2008

Bangalore: The Gnat jet fighter, which earned its name as ‘Sabre Slayer’ in the two India-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971, will be honoured in its golden jubilee celebration on November 21. The Canadair Sabre was a jet fighter built by Pakistan under licence from the US.

Around 200 pilots, engineers and flight-testers of yesteryear and their families from India and abroad will come to Bangalore for the event, which is being jointly organized by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the former’s Ghatge Convention Centre on Old Airport Road.

Some famous pilots of the previous generation have already arrived in Bangalore.
Air chief marshal, F H Major, will be the chief guest. A film on Gnat made by renowned aviation film-maker Kunal Verma will be screened at the event. A book on the old fighter jet edited by Pushpinder Singh will also be released, plus a photo exhibition will be held.

“The event holds significance as never before because we have not seen the coming together of so many experts associated with Gnat under one roof. IAF and HAL are proud to be associated with this event as it will help next generation aviators and engineers rub shoulders with some of the jewels of the past,” said chairman of the organizing team, Sanjeev Sahi.

HAL was the licensed producer of the Gnat; it made nearly 200 of them for the IAF. Apart from the IAF, the original designers and builders of the Gnat, Folland Aviation of the UK, was the only major operator of the aircraft in both combat and training.

KILLER INSTINCT: The good old Gnats

Register – Online or Offline

People have been writing in asking for a form that could be printed out, filled up and sent forward to the committee organising the event.  This is essentially to assist those without online access. Of course, those with access will still have to download, print and pass on the forms but its an easy enough process.

For those who want to register for the event online, the page has been open for a quite a few days now and registrations are literally pouring in. Click here to go the registration form online.

Forms to print are available both as a MS-Word document as well as a PDF document.

Printed forms need to be mailed to:

Gp Capt NK Krishnan (Retd),
Chief Manager (Flight Operations & Safety),
Corporate Office,
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited,
5/1 Cubbon Road, Bangalore – 560 001

Do register as soon as you can.

50 years of the Gnat

On Friday 21 November, 2008 Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), will be holding a nostalgic celebration for the Golden Jubilee of arrival of the Gnat in Bangalore.

It will begin with a session at HAL’s Dr Ghatage Convention Centre where hopefully some old timers will talk about the aircraft. This will be followed by a lunch hosted by HAL.

In the evening there will be a dinner for guests with wives by invitation.

All pilots and engineers involved with the Gnat in IAF, its manufacture in HAL or designing of Ajeet, would be welcome. If you are willing and able to attend, please plan accordingly. Please also spread the word around, especially to those who do not use computers.

HAL has expressed its inability to help with travel, accommodation or transport. If you wish to attend, please come back to this site in a few days where you can fill up the form for joining the celebrations. You may also need to help with the registration of friends who do not use computers.