Nashik/Pune: A Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft, under-production with public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), crashed in a grape farm near Nashik on Wednesday. The pilot and a flight test engineer on board ejected safely before the aircraft hit the ground.
The twin-jet multirole air superiority fighter crashed shortly after a take off from the HAL airstrip in Ozar near Nashik. HAL said the Board of Investigation has been ordered to find out the exact cause. “Su 30 MkI, produced at HAL Nashik crashed during a sortie in the local flying area of Ozar (Nashik) airport at 11 am.
It was piloted by Wg Cdr Prashant Nair accompanied by Sqn Ldr L Biswal (Flight Test Engineer). Both ejected safely. The Board of Investigation has been ordered to find out the exact cause,” the HAL statement reads.
Shyam Niphade who was working in a grape farm was injured after being hit by splinter and he has been admitted to the rural hospital at Pimpalgaon, Nashik police said. The aircraft crashed in the farms near Gorthan, Wavi, Thushi villages, about 25 km from Ozar. Soon two HAL aircrafts reached there and shifted both of them to a hospital.
According to officials, the aircraft crashed within five minutes after take off. The aircraft developed some technical snag and the pilot contacted the Air Traffic Control (ATC) and he was advised to eject as a safety measure. Immediately, both the pilot and the engineer ejected and with the help of parachutes, they landed on a grape farm. They sustained minor injuries due to wire in the farm. Soon the aircraft crashed and it was burnt and damaged badly. The aircraft parts damaged grapes and pomegranate in 100-metres radius.
Several persons recorded video of pilots landing using parachutes. A crowd also gathered around the damaged aircraft and police had to seal the farm.
The Sukhoi-30MKI fighter is meant for all-weather, air-to-air and air-to-surface missions. The first of the Su-30 planes were inducted by the IAF in the late 1990s. Since then, at least half a dozen crashes have taken place, most of them attributed to technical failure.
The IAF plans to upgrade its fleet of SU-30MKI to ‘Super Sukhois’, which includes fitting the aircraft with new long-range, precision-strike weapons systems, upgraded engines and more advanced avionics.
One Sukhoi costs Rs 300 crore
Meanwhile, a top official who was involved with the aircraft production told that the Sukhoi which crashed, was the first of the batch produced at the Aircraft Manufacturing Division at HAL Nashik this year.
“Normally around 12 aircraft for a new squadron are manufactured and each aircraft, worth over Rs 300 crore, has a manufacturing cycle of around 3 years,” the official said.
“This particular aircraft had completed several flights and was about to be inducted into the IAF,” he said. Before induction, such aircraft are flown by either HAL pilots or IAF pilots on deputation with HAL, he said.
Past Sukhoi crashes
† April 30, 2009: An IAF pilot was killed and another seriously injured in the first-ever Su-30 MKI fighter jet crash near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
† November 30, 2009: A Sukhoi fighter jet crashed during a routine training sortie south-west of Pokhran firing ranges in Rajasthan. The two pilots, Wing Commander Srivastava and Flight Lieutenant Arora, bailed out safely.
† December 13, 2011: A Sukhoi jet crashed soon after taking off from Lohegaon airbase (Pune) but both the pilots managed to bail out safely.
† February 19, 2013: A Sukhoi aircraft crashed in Jaisalmer but both the pilots bailed out safely.
† October 14, 2014: A Sukhoi jet crashed at a village near Pune. Both the pilot and the co-pilot were unharmed.
† May 19, 2015: A Sukhoi fighter jet crashed at Laokhowa in Nagaon district of Assam with both the pilot and co-pilot ejecting safely.
† March 15, 2017: A Sukhoi aircraft crashed in Rajasthan’s Barmer district, injuring three villagers. Both the pilots ejected safely from the plane.
† May 23, 2017: A Su-30MKI crashed 60 km from Tezpur’s Salanbari Air Force Station (Assam); the two pilots on board killed.
(With PTI inputs)