Ancient Aviator Anecdote

Republic Day Flypasts

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

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This piece brings to mind the Republic Day ypasts in which I had actively participated in the rst two decades after we became a republic. The spectators, thronging both sides of Rajpath in New Delhi, saw only the impeccable position-keeping of up to 64 aircraft (ac) ying in 16 boxes of 4 ac each. We iers heard no applause nor saw anything other than the ac we were formatting on and remained almost 'frozen' in position till far out of sight past India Gate.

The preparations for the R-Day ypast commences immediately in the new year and involves a great deal of planning / co- ordination / rehearsals. The composition of the ypast grew rapidly into a mix of rotary / xed-wing, piston / jet, single / twin-engined and transport / ghter blocks of ac from a number of squadrons operating from several bases. These blocks were required to join up at the RV point and, orbiting like an airborne snake, uncoil itself into a mile-long straight line by the run-in point marked by smoke candles to align the ypast with the dome of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

My very rst R-Day ypast was in a Vampire in 1954 followed by one in a Toofani. In the early 1960s a certain Group Captain commanding an air force station (who shall remain nameless), decided to lead the block himself in a Hunter 66 Trainer ac with the other seat occupied by a navigator. On the rst rehearsal the visibility west of Delhi was poor and he missed both the smoke candle(s) and Rajpath! The embarrassing debrief that followed was not in any way helped by some humorist who claimed that the station commander concerned had received a message from the station master Sonepat railway station thanking him for the ypast!

The presence of birds was a continuing ight safety hazard. It took its toll the next year when a Mg-21 ac, ying just behind us in the supersonic block, ingested a bird into its engine which amed out. The pilot, a young Flying Ofcer, very smartly pulled clear and ejected safely a bare minute before Rashtrapati Bhavan. The ypast went through as planned and we only learned about the ejection after we landed back at base.

In the mid - 1970s I was instructed to join ve other gallantry awardees from the other two services as the MoD had decided to 'showcase' some of the Indian war heroes as part of the R- Day parade. It was my rst opportunity to actually observe the function, seated 'to attention' in an open jeep. On one rehearsal, just after passing the saluting base, our jeep broke down. Fortunately the media personnel present were slow to spot / report on three middle-aged, senior ofcers pushing the vehicle to one side and then hot-footing it across the lawns to CV Mess in search of (liquid) refreshment! For the next rehearsal we found that a standby jeep was now added to our tiny convoy of two!

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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