BENGALURU: Two jets of the Indian Air Force’s Suryakiran Aerobatic Team crashed after a mid-air collision over the Yelahanka airbase in north Bengaluru. One of the three pilots has died. The two others, who ejected safely, have been injured and taken to the Command Hospital.
The accident took place at around 11:50 am during a rehearsal session ahead the Aero India show that opens in the city tomorrow. “There were three pilots, one has died. Two are safe with injuries,” MN Reddi, Director General of Police, Fire Services, told news agency PTI. The air force has ordered an investigation.
A video showed the two Hawk jets spinning out of control shortly after a reported mid-air collision following which two pilots were seen ejecting. It’s unclear if the third pilot was able to eject or whether his parachute opened successfully.
“Oh my god, oh my god,” a man can be heard saying as the jets crashed into a bushy area in Yelahanka’s ISRO Layout, a residential area. The area near the burning jets has been cordoned off by the police. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who is in Bengaluru, is rushing to the Yelahanka airbase. “I’m aware of it (incident),” she said, but did not elaborate further.
Aero India 2019 will be held between February 20 and 24. The stunning formations by the Suryakirans, the Air Force’s dare-devil aerobatic squadron is a regular highlight of the aero show. Thousands of visitors are expected to attend the five-day biennial event. Bengaluru has been hosting the aero show since it started in 1996. The last Aero India show was held in February 2017.
Besides business delegates from the world over, official delegations from a dozen countries will witness the flypast and aerobatic display on the inaugural day. As against 72 aircraft in the previous edition in 2017, 61 aircraft have registered for flying and static display on the tarmac of the airbase this time.
This year, a battery of US naval assets, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet, will be on display at the aero show as part of strengthening defence cooperation between the two countries.