Tag Archives: Palam

Gnat Scramble: A Lucky Escape Once – A Disaster Decades Later

By Air Commodore Tapas Sen (Retd)

I had joined the Panthers in November 1963 as a Flight Commander and had needed just twenty eight days to be declared operational on Gnats. Therefore, my story today must have been set on a cold Sunday morning early in December 1963. I do not have my logbook handy at this moment so I cannot quote the exact date. Tradition demanded that I get rostered for a holiday stint at the ORP (Operational Readiness Platform) as soon I get declared operational on type. I claimed no exception for myself; I found myself on the ORP on that Sunday. By chance, the other pilot on duty was the other new flight commander, Reggie Upot. We were no strangers to each other. He was my instructor when I was a pupil in the Flying Instructors’ school, and he was my CO when he was commanding the FIS and I was his Chief Ground Instructor. He was now my senior colleague.
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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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