Ancient Aviator Anecdote


Author: Air Vice Marshal Cecil Parker, MVC VM (Retd)

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Depending upon the context in which it is used, the term 'trainers' can refer to people or to specialist sports shoes or to ight simulators! Fliers world-wide however know it as the generic term used for two-seater aircraft (AC) utilized for pilot training ranging from basic to type-trainers of high- performance, single-seat combat AC.

My generation's association with Indian Air Force trainer AC began in 1951 in Ambala with basic ying training in the fabric- covered, biplane, the Tiger Moth, in which the pupil ew from the rear cockpit! In the advanced stage of pilot training we ew from the front cockpit of the all-metal Harvard AC. Post-commission we moved to the CTU to convert on to the Tempest AC which had no type-trainer. We were therefore given four dual sorties from the front cockpit of the Spitre MK 1X – the trainer derivative of the famous 'Battle of Britain' ghter AC. In comparison the Tempest was a far more powerful, heavy and difcult AC to y; we survived but alas our naval aviator course mate did not. This was the end of our training on piston-engined, tail-wheel AC as the Tempest was soon grounded and we moved to a squadron equipped with the very rst jet AC of the IAF.

The Vampire type-trainer was still in the future hence we were briefed thoroughly and, after a ground-run, were launched solo in an AC where, for the very rst time, the engine, was behind us and we were seated in the nose of the AC; we coped! The next AC was the Toofani which also did not have a type-trainer but now, with over two years ying experience on Vampire jets, we converted more easily onto this French AC with it's toe-brakes and wing-tip tanks. At FIS (Flying Instructors School) we learned to y from the rear cockpit of the HT-2 and Harvard trainers as well as learning how to teach.

Back to squadron life and ten consecutive years on the Hunter AC which had a very professionally designed trainer variant with side-by-side seating. A good deal of my instructional ying was from the right hand seat especially at the (Hunter) OTU which I raised and commanded from 1966 – 69. During this period I also had the privilege of being taken up for an air experience sortie in a visiting Canberra AC by one of the IAF's legends who happened to be my then Station Commander. As a station commander myself, I inducted the tandem seater Polish Iskra trainer AC into the IAF and which, along with the Kiran trainer, we used for both advanced and applied stages of pilot training. As the Air Ofcer Commanding of an air base for Mig AC, I did my Type 69 conversion and as Commandant of the Air Force Academy ew the prototype HPT-32 trainer AC.

The last two trainer AC I ew in the air force were the Mig 23/T-24 from Leh and the Jaguar T-2 from Ambala where it all started 35 years earlier! My log book tells me that 35% of my ying hours are as a 'trainer' but, as all (old) pilots know, 100% was experiential learning!

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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