One dies as Surya Kiran jets crash at Aero India

YELAHANKA | A pilot has died after two jets of the Indian national aerobatic team, Surya Kiran, crashed on Tuesday 19th February.

The team, who fly the BAE Hawk Mk.132, were practicing for Aero India at Yelahanka AFS. They were taking part in the show for the first time as a full 9-ship display since they were temporarily disbanded in 2011.

The two jets involved were performing the mirror pass  – the penultimate manoeuvre of the show – when they collided and crashed immediately afterwards, at about 11:50 local time.

Local news website  The News Minute said that the deceased pilot has been identified as Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi, who flew in the #7 position. They said 2IC Wing Commander Vijay Shelke and Squadron Leader Tejeshwar Singh, flying in the other jet, managed to eject. One was only slightly injured, while the other suffered fractured legs. At least one civilian on the ground was also hurt.

The Surya Kiran Aerobatic Team was founded in 1996 flying nine HAL Kiran  Mk.IIs. They previously suffered fatal accidents in 2006 and 2009, before being temporarily disbanded in 2011 due to their ageing fleet. The team was reformed in 2015 on the Hawk, initially flying with four jets before increasing to six and finally debuting with nine planes in October 2018. This is their first accident since transitioning to the new jet.

Aero India takes place at Yelahanka AFS, near Bangalore, on the 20th-24th February. It also features the Indian Air Force’s Sarang aerobatic team, the Yakovlevs from the UK and a number of solo demonstrations, including the IAF Tejas LCA and the Rafale C from France.