Saturday, April 24, 2010

First flight of LCA -Tejas: History revisited

It was afternoon of 31st December 2000 that high speed takeoff trials were carried out by Wing commander Rajiv Kothiyal; Wing commander Rajiv Kothiyal 42 at that time was a graduate of United States air force test pilots school and was the pilot who could be flying the first TD-1 aircraft. it was more of aborted takeoff were LCA TD-1 reached speed of 240 kmph and when the nose of the aircraft rose up, throttled to the engine was reduced and Brakes were applied.  Aircraft was later taken back to the hangar.
Scientist studied the data collected and after feedback from the pilot Kothiyal go head was giving to the first flight of LCA TD-1, it was matter of days before the first flight could be performed, with weather not been good of the new year, later it was decided that 4th January 2001 will be the day for the historical flight, Met department had predicated good weather condition for that day.
ACM (Air Chief Marshall) Tipnis was informed about the day of the first flight .Excited Tipnis wanted to be in the chase plane of TD-1, since main chase plane Mirage-2000 had many important factors to be carried on the that day, a second Mirage 2000 was arranged so that ACM (Air Chief Marshall) Tipnis could chase TD-1 on its historical flight. Ground preparation for first flight was in full swing in Yelahanka air force base, while Ground rescue and fire crew were prepared for the worst case scenario, Two MI-8 were kept on standby to carry out any SAR (Search and Rescue) mission.
Judgment day, 1000 hours of simulation tests, 17 taxi trials and 92 sorties on Mirage-2000s had all come down to 4th January 2001 with high ranking air force official and ministers from MOD who were to watch the first flight it was make or break for the whole LCA program, anything out of planned profile will mean doom for the whole program.
Pre-flight checks on TD-1 was carried out  early morning at around 6.00 am, hardly anyone associated with the program had a sound sleep that night, HAL and ADA officials , personnel started arriving early for the historical flight and started taking all the vantage point . Scenario near runway was very similar to a cricket match stadium, where everybody associated with the project wanted to have good glimpse of the aircraft taking off, Kothiyal performed walk around inspection of the aircraft and project head Dr Kota was seen shaking hands with him.
Kothiyal stepped into the cockpit of TD-1 and it was 9.15 am soon he started carrying out preflight checks and Test instruments on board the aircraft started their own set of test, checks were agonizingly slow and pilot remained in the aircraft for all most 30 minutes before instruments gave him Go head indication, Soon ATC cleared Kothiyal for takeoff and TD-1 started to progress towards the main runway followed by two Mirage-2000 right behind him in a another runway. Soon both the Mirage 2000 were airborne and had positioned them self-right behind TD-1 in air ,TD-1 started moving and soon started picking up speed and it was at 10.18 am TD-1 took off and kept on climbing , chase pilots did not see any abnormality in aircraft so Kothiyal was told to get the desire attitude which was 10000 ft with  landing gear were left in down and locked position , after 18 minutes in air TD-1 was approaching runway for landing with two Mirage-2000s right behind chasing aircraft ,at 10.36 am TD-1 touched downed and deployed its tail chute and soon aircraft slowed downed and Kothiyal parked the aircraft and switched off the engine  and history was made ,it was a small flight for Lca program but a Giant leap for Indian Aeronautics .


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