BENGALURU: At the recently-concluded Aero India 2017, aircraft and helicopters of all sizes and shapes took to the skies, wowing the public with their speed, maneuverability and aerial prowess. But amid all these technologically-advanced machines, it was a tiny, yellow aircraft that caught a lot of attention — the Indian Air Force’s refurbished De Havilland Hu-512 Tiger Moth, which was built in 1942. The manually flown, all wood-and-fabric aircraft was a property of the Air Force Museum in Palam, New Delhi, until a few engineers came up with the idea of making it fly again — something it hadn’t done since the 70s.
The pilot who flew the plane — 40-year-old Wing Commander Prashanth Nair, a former student of Christ University — had an interesting time flying the delicate aircraft all the way from the Air Force Base in Hindon, UP, covering a distance of 2,000 km over five days and 12 halts. Speaking about his experience, he says, “Flying the Tiger Moth to Yelahanka took those many days because my co-pilot Wg Cdr NP Verma and I cannot fly it under windy, dusty or rainy conditions. There’s also the wind-chill effect because of the open cockpit, fuel capacity that limited continuous flying time to 2.5 hours and absolutely no night flying. What normally is a 2.5 hour journey took us 23 hours of air time in total.”
The aircraft was rebuilt in the UK by a company called Reflight, between 2007 and 2012. “The aircraft can’t fly faster than 110 kmph, and only at a height of 2,000-3,000 feet. That gave us some of the best views of the terrain all the way from Hindon to Bengaluru. In case of engine failure, we’ve been trained to glide and land the plane, which is why one of our main jobs while flying is to constantly keep an eye out for fields that can be ideal for landing. Since this is a WWII-era plane, it doesn’t have seats that eject in case of an emergency. So, we perform a bail-out — that is to unbuckle our safety belt, walk till the edge of the wing and jump off with our parachutes. Given these are such a vintage beauty, I really hope it never comers to that,” Prashanth says.