New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Indian Air Force's trainer aircraft Kiran crashed near the southern city of Hyderabad on Thursday morning during a routine training mission. According to an official statement, while the aircraft was completely destroyed, the pilot escaped safely.
Thirty laborers working at a stone crusher narrowly escaped death as the craft crash-landed just near the site and blew up in flames as it touched the ground, according to state officials.
"A Kiran aircraft, which got airborne from Air Force Station Hakimpet of Hyderabad for a routine training mission with a trainee flight cadet, crashed this morning at 11:45 a.m. The pilot is safe. A court of inquiry will be ascertaining the cause of the accident," an Indian Air Force (IAF) official said in a statement.
The aircraft crashed within 10 minutes after reportedly developing a technical snag. The aircraft went up in flames and is completely burnt.
The IAF had planned to phase out the Kiran from 2014 onwards but was forced to extend the retirement date as HAL has failed to develop a replacement even after 19 years since the initial requirement was submitted by the IAF.
"The phase-out will now commence from the end of 2019. The Committee is unhappy with the performance of HAL on the issue of IJTs. The scenario has become so dismal that Kiran aircraft is being considered for ‘extension' for mid-level training. Training is very crucial as any lacunae could result into fatalities," a Parliamentary Standing Committee report submitted earlier this year had said.
Now, the IAF is looking at other available options for intermediate flight training. This could include the use of basic training aircraft for undertaking the intermediate stage training syllabus (Stage-II Flying).
The IAF had informed the government in 1998 about the need to procure contemporary trainer aircraft to replace aging Kiran aircraft, which were considered old and beset with problems of spare.
Due to its aging fleet, the IAF has been witnessing an average of eight aircraft crashes per year. This is only a slight improvement from 13 annual crashes a few years back due to better availability of spare parts.