Indian Air Force

The Air Warrior Who Flew A Jet Without Canopy!

Hello defence lovers! Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari has assumed command as the 27th Cheif of air staff of the Indian air force from 1st October 2021. In this article, we are going to discuss one of the most inspiring and exhilarating incidents from his service life. Air Chief Marshal V. R. Chaudhari is one of the most decorated officers currently serving in the IAF. So first, let us briefly discuss his Carrier.

Early Life And Career

Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy. He is also a graduate of Defence Services Staff College. He was commissioned in the Indian Air Force as a fighter pilot on 29 December 1982. He is a qualified flight instructor, and Instrument Rating Instructor, and examiner. He has a flying experience of over 3800 hours on various fighter aircraft including MiG-21, MiG-23MF, MiG-29, and Su-30MKI. Click here to read more about him.

Canopy Burst Incident

The No. 28 Squadron was formed after the 1962 Indo-Sino war and very peculiar to its name, “First Supersonics” squadron was the foremost unit to operate the Russian Mach-2 Mig-21 F-13(Fishbed-C or Type 74) supersonic jets that had been recently inducted into the Indian Air Force. This squadron formed with the elite IAF fighter pilots of those time was based at Tezpur AFS, Assam. In the year 1985, after handing over the MiG-21 (Type 77) aircrafts to MiG Operational Flying Training Unit(MOFTU) which provided operational flying to the trainee pilots on MiG-21, the unit was once again given the honour of being one of the early two squadrons to be converted to the 4th Gen Russian Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 supersonic jet.

Source: Know Your Heroes by Hrishabh Tiwari

It was the year 1994, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari was Squadron leader back then. was Flight Commander of the No. 28 Squadron “First Supersonics” based in Pune. One fine day Sqd Ldr Chaudhari taxied his Mig 29 on the runway of Lohegaon Air force Station. All flight instruments, radios, brakes, fuel, and cockpit latch were all checked, Sq Ldr Chaudhari was ready to take off awaiting clearance from the Air traffic control. Once cleared he throttled the twin Klimov RD-33 turbofan engines, slowly releasing the brakes, and raced his Mig 29 on the 2 km runway.

It had just been few minutes since he was airborne, his delightful Mach (flying at a speed between 1300-1500 km/hr) run turned into a fighter pilot’s worst nightmare. All of a sudden his canopy detached and blew away. All the cockpit alarms along with the roaring Klimov RD 33 engines made it impossible to hear a single instruction from the ATC. The wind blast at speed over the speed of sound made the situation even worse. For a fighter pilot, the first action that would come to mind is pulling the ejection lever. But Sqd Ldr Chaudhari was no ordinary fighter pilot. As the incident happened over Pune, a densely populated city of India, ejecting there would turn the uncontrolled fighter into a deadly missile that could kill countless innocent people.

Neither Sqd Ldr VR Chaudhari nor his colleagues had ever faced a situation like this before hence it all came down to the skills, intuitions, and training of the officer to get himself out of that emergency. He lowered his seat to the maximum extent to reduce the windblast as much as possible. With all the odds against him, he displayed immense skill and courage and managed to land the Mig 29 back at the airbase safely. The aircraft was safe. Sqd Ldr Chaudhari also came out unharmed from that MiG-29 cockpit and later flew in many successful combat operations which are Op-Safed Sagar and Op-Parakram.

Later for his exemplary bravery in the incident along with in operation Safed Sagar and Operation Parakram in 2004 he was awarded the Vayu Sena medal. Later in an investigation, it was revealed that the MiG-29’s canopy had not locked properly despite the cockpit indication confirming it was. The investigation concluded by stating that the SOPs and guidelines were not followed properly by the airframe crew and ground duty staff that led to such a mid-air emergency.

So this was the story, how our new Airforce Chief flew a fighter jet at the speed of sound without a canopy! Follow our website DefenceXP to read more stories of our braveheart warriors.


Sheershoo Deb

I am a defense aspirant preparing to be an officer in the prestigious Indian armed forces. Earning the prestigious blue uniform is my dream.

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