I could still jump into a Gnat cockpit and proudly get airborne

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.

4 thoughts on “I could still jump into a Gnat cockpit and proudly get airborne”

  1. I am the other guy in the anecdote but did not remember my first solo that GS has so graphically brought out. What I do remember however is that after landing from a sortie on the Hunter with the Flaming Arrows, the Flight Commander, late “Nimbu” Mallick, was standing outside the office with a leery grin and kept saying repeatedly that I was “f……d” – such was the reputation of the Gnat that I immediately guessed what he meant. I had expressed my desire to fly Gnats in my previous ACR and gleefully reminded him of that. As it so happened, he himself was shortly thereafter posted to Gnats and I am sure he came to like the aircraft as much as everyone else did. By the way, I happened to be the first to be posted to Gnats as a Pilot Officer but found out on reaching Ambala that the squadron was yet to receive aircraft.

  2. Dear Shyam Sir,

    You were the architect of the famous ‘v’check in the Gnat.Raising one hand,then the other,while the airframe tech confirmed that the flaperons were in manual.For the info of all Gnatties,would appreciate some details from you on how this check was introduced.

    Arvind’Shorts’ Kumar

  3. Received from Former CNS, Admiral RH Tahiliani (Retd): –

    I have been reading with great interest all about the Gnat, although I never flew one. One little input I can share with you all which may already be known to some of you is given below.
    When Baba Katre took over as CAS, his plan was to settle for the Gnat Trainer which was a differenr kettle of fish with a higher t/c ratio and more fuel as an interim measure. I said to him that the Navy would back this project. Sadly he did not live to make this come true. His successors were all sold on the AJT from UK which they thought they would get for the asking.It took us two decades for this to happen. Makes one believe-the best is the enemy of the good.

  4. The mystery of the first solo on E 229 that Bal remembered and I didn’t can now be explained as I have regained access to my log books – it must have been someone else as I did my first solo on IE 1245 and though I admit that my long association with Gnats was one long adventure, I remember my first solo as having gone off without any unusual excitement.

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