Ancient Aviator Anecdote

From ‘Royal’ To ‘Indian’ Air Force

Author: Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Cecil Parker, MVC

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On 16 December, 2017, the 200th PC (Pilots Course) graduated from the Air Force Academy (AFA) in Hyderabad. I share a year of birth with the IAF (1932) and, with the passage of time, find myself today as the oldest living ex-commandant of the AFA. My own association with the AFA is threefold; as a flight cadet in 1951-52, as a Flight Instructor in 1955-57 and as the Commandant in 1983-85.

The genesis of pilot training in our air force can be traced back to World War II (1939-45). It must be recalled that, for the first 15 years (1932-47), the IAF was a limb of the Royal Air Force and served British needs. It was the advent of the war that necessitated a rapid expansion of pilot training, commissions were offered to Indians in the RIAF for the first time. 50 regular / ad oc pilot training courses were conducted in UK / SA and at FTEs (Flying –Training establishments) set up at tome of the 200 emergency airfields constructed in undivided India. Our pioneering Indian pilots benefitted greatly from the skills and knowledge gained in air operations both in India and overseas. This experience was vital in building up the IAF post Indepedence.

The process of indigenization of Indian military air power can be said to have commenced with ground training at ITW (Initial Training Wing) Coimbatore in October 1947 and thereafter at EFTS (Elementary Flying Training School) at Jodhpur. I joined No. 58 PC in early 1951 for our (ten) 18 – month flying training on Tiger Moth (Basic) and Harvard (Advanced) aircraft (ac). In 1970-71 the present and permanent AFA Hyderabad was set up and all officer-branch training (other than technical trg) was centralized under one roof.

When I took over as Commandant in 1983, our air force faced major training problems. It is now 31 years since I left the IAF but, being co-located with the AFA in retirement, I never fail to receive an invitation to the bi-annual GP (Graduation Parade) from the Academy which now conducts basic pilot training on Swiss Pilatus PC 7 ac. In my 86th year it is not always convenient to attend but when I do, I am happy to meet Commandants who were pupil pilots / new flying instructors during my tenure and whose efforts collectively contribute to the double century at / by the AFA.

The author is a retired air vice marshal of the IAF and a freelance writer who can be contacted at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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