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WHICH PLANE DO YOU FLY?  By Rajiv Dhar

WHICH PLANE DO YOU FLY?  By Rajiv Dhar

During my young days in IAF this question always haunted me, especially when asked by damsels. I often used to brood over, “why can’t an engineering officer fly an airplane”. As I moved on, I got armed with some standard answers to give, especially at the time of my marriage engagement and later for my in-laws side. But, I could not escape this question ever. With my age, Uncle got added to the question and after retirement question became “Which Plane did you fly”.

I won’t deny, like most, even now, sight of a supersonic jet suddenly roaring into the sky, being visible for a few seconds, before it turns hard and disappears in no time makes my breathing hard and fast with heart pounding and legs shaking with excitement. Joining Adrenaline junkies gang flying such aircraft was my first impression of Air Force Officer.

Well, my job as engineer was no less exciting with IAF predominantly being a technical workforce with engineers more than operational flyers in numbers. Equally exciting was the fact that technicians who you command are second to none when it comes to professionalism. Depending on branch, Mechanical or electronics our jobs gets defined. As Aeronautical engineer Mechanical, I was trained and worked as specialist officer and later as operations officer on state of art guided weapons system (bet you have seen the missiles in action in the movies). I could drive and test any small or big specialist vehicles including tracked and amphibian vehicles with night vision devices. In addition to fire assault rifles, 12 bore and pistols I also worked on helicopters ,aircraft weapons, bombs and rockets and their logistics, packaging and disposal. Working on shop floor, in industry like environment, was a great joy. I never realized that I could be a better teacher, designer and Inspector till I was given such roles. Thanks to Air Force for giving me this unique experience.

At the age of 30, I was responsible for equipment worth millions of dollars while controlling nearly 150 men reporting directly to me. I was back to the best institution in India competing with civilian boys and girls for my Masters at an age of 32 years, and trust me there was never a dull day. I realized IAF has so much to offer while undergoing mountaineering training under none other than Sherpa Nawang Gombu (First person to climb Mount Everest twice) and later during my Skiing training. Country wide postings and travelling including at deserts, high altitudes and freezing temperatures gave me an experience of each place and community closely.

My course alone has given four Air Vice Marshals, many Group Captains, Wing Commanders and Squadron Leaders to this great Nation. Not to forget, even after retirement or premature release, engineers’ contribution is immense in Nation building. Most of us continue offering our services at PSU’s, educational and other National Institutions, Business, Industry, Airlines and at international platform attaining high positions. After my release on compassionate grounds, for another 23 years I had an opportunity to work with Industry followed by leading autonomous Institute of Ministry of Commerce and Industry before finally retiring from a United Nations organization at Geneva.

Today, on 89th Air Force anniversary, I feel honoured for an opportunity to serve my country for 22 years and work with a great bonding with officers and men from Flying, Medical, Navigation, Education, Administrative, Logistics, Meterological, Accounts and legal branches of IAF.
Now this is something no other profession can offer during our youthful days.
Jai Hind.

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Suresh Rao
15 days ago

Rajiv; Great narrative. You made all planes and pilots fly! What was your rank when you retired?

A close friend of mine, an engineering officer, retired as Wing Commander Y.S.Sridhar. IAF sent him to IISc Bangalore to complete his Masters degree in Aeronautics in year 1966-67 (I think.) IAF is a great organization for a career.
Happy 89th Air Force Day.

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