Gnat — Two Flying Incidents

By Air Mshl MSD Wollen (Retd)
First Incident

The Gnat Handling Flight (GHF) moved to Palam in the second week of Jan 1961. It had completed its last phase of air to ground, 30 mm cannon firing at Tilpat range and was due to move to Jamnagar to complete its final task viz.,prove the effectivness of engine fuel-dip system, during cannon firing at 45,000 ft over the Porbunder A/A range.

2. On 11 Mar 61, I took off in the early evening (my third sortie of the day) in Gnat IE1067, to carry out a post 100 hr flight-inspection. The aircraft was fitted with unfilled drop tanks.The Gnat aircraft fuel flow proportioner had in recent months been malfunctioning. During the climb out, the aircraft’s ‘c of g’ was thought to be moving aft, since fore-aft movement of the control column did not result in precise response (a typical sign of flow proportioner malfunction).

3. The emergency drill in such a case was to split the tail-plane, shut off hydraulic power, retain ailerons in power (ie not exhaust power by small aileron movement, thus bringing the ailerons to manual) and land. This drill was followed, since it is stated in the Company’s Pilots’ Notes. On the final approach to R/W 33 (Palam’s main R/W was under renovation), at about “flare” height (undercarriage down, ailerons drooped) the control column moved fully left ; it could however be moved forward/backward. The aircraft rolled to the left ; the airspeed was around 150 kts. I slammed the throttle open and gained whatever height was possible before the aircraft reached the 90 deg. banked position. The rate of roll could not be hastened or slowed. On my back, I gained more height. The aircraft entered a second roll ; I re-selected hydraulic power ‘on’. Movement of the control column was restored. I landed the aircraft with the tail plane split. No over-sensitveness in controlling pitch, during landing, with an aft ‘c of g’, occurred.
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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!

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The Gnat Handling Flight — Overview

By Air Mshl M S D Wollen (Retd)
  The Gnat was selected for the IAF in 1954, whilst in development at Folland, UK. It was a bold decision. A senior test pilot (Suranjan Das) was seconded to Folland to assist in development of the aircraft. Aside from India, the only other country interested in the Gnat was Sweden (they purchased 12 aircraft). A small team of senior IAF officers was also deputed to Folland to oversee development. The first Gnat came to India in Jan 1959 ; it flew in the Republic Day Flypast.
2. The Handling Flight formed in Dec 1959 with 6 Gnat aircraft, 4 pilots, 1 engineer officer, around 50 airmen and 10 lascars. It formed the “B” Flight of A&ATU, Kanpur, under the command of Wg. Cdr. Suranjan Das ; its tenure was one year. Its main tasks were:–
  (a) to recomend spares, required for future Gnat squadrons.
  (b) to verify the Gnat’s capability to perform ground-attack missions (guns,rockets, bombs).
  (c) to verify performance of its fuel-dip system, which enables complete fire-out of its guns at 45,000 ft.
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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