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First Day, First Show! A sprog reports to a Gnat Squadron

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”!!