How many Gnats can be flown with a single A/H and a pair of Main Wheels !!!

By Gp Capt PM Velankar VM (Retd)

Foxed by the title, Read on to unravel the mystery .

After being part of 22 Squadron for almost 5 years from 1969 to 1974 , In July of that year I was posted to 5 BRD Sulur . This was not my first visit to that place as I had ferried Gnats from 22 Squadron to Sulur for major overhaul and also accepted , air tested Gnat aircraft after completion of major overhaul and ferried them to 22 Squadron . However during those ferries even in my wildest dreams I had not imagined that I would be posted there not once but for two tenures and would spend almost six years at that place and have some wonderful times .

I was posted to do air test on overhauled Gnat aircraft and clear them for allotment to the Gnat Squadrons. Production task ( number of aircraft to be overhauled ) for the financial year was given by Air Headquarters . So 31 March assumed vast significance in scheme of things at the BRD .All sorts of rotables and a very large number minor and major items like canopy for re – bubbling , main under carriage oleo legs ,aero engine etc were removed from the aircraft received for major servicing and sent to HAL Bangalore for servicing as BRD was neither equipped nor had qualified personnel to do the job . While HAL was doing their job , technicians at BRD stripped the air frame carried out the servicing of the airframe , fuel cells , change on power looms replacing the cables and the wiring etc etc . There was always mad rush and race against time to finish the task against all odds of provisioning , servicing and mainly against lack of timely supply of rotables from HAL Bangalore .

The less said about the work culture at Public Sector undertakings the better it is . I do not know how things are now but only thing good which can be said about the HAL Bangalore of those days was the cost and the quality of executive lunch in Officers Canteen . ( by the time I went on deputation to HAL even that had gone to dogs as a cost saving measure ) . So it was no wonder that It was herculean task to get back in right time , the serviced roatables sent to HAL..

That is how it came to pass that in that year all the servicing schedule on four Gnats was over . The aircraft were ready to be offered for the air test . Even one air test on these would mean achieving the task by FOUR aircraft !! Only aircraft was offered and flown . The other three aircraft could not be offered for flying even though ready in every respect because Artificial Horizon (A/H) was missing from these these aircraft !!!! A/H sent for servicing were still awaited . Protracted correspondence had not yielded desired results . Frantic calls had same results . As a final solution it was decided to cannibalise the only available A/ H to the other aircraft and do the air test . Till such time remaining A/H were received , these four aircraft were flown with that that single A/H !!!!

I remember another time when main wheel tyres were not available in almost exactly the same circumstances except that HAL was not a guilty party at that time . It was then that a single pair of main wheels was cannibalised to fly three/four aircraft ( I forget the exact number ) .

It speaks volumes for our Technical Officers and technicians and a tribute to them that even against all odds they always delivered the goods , then , and continue to do so today . The Gnat king pins Shaukat & Sylam were in charge of Gnat floor those days .

Sir my hats off to you and our Technical Officers and men who do the impossible !!!

Today being Air Force day let us touch the sky with glory .

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