Mau, UP, Aug 4: A Jaguar deep-penetration strike aircraft crashed here today killing its pilot and a girl working in an agricultural field, the second IAF plane to meet with an accident this week.
The single-seater aircraft, which had taken off from Gorakhpur airbase at 12:15 PM, crashed in the field in Dilahi Firozpur village, about 50 kms from the district headquarters, DIG Azamgarh L Ravi Kumar said.
“Pilot of the aircraft Flight Lieutenant S Pandey died in the crash. A girl who was hit by a splinter on ground from the crashed aircraft also succumbed to injuries,” an IAF spokesperson said.
The twin-engine aircraft burst into flames after hitting the ground. While 18-year-old Ruma was killed, two other women working in the field were injured, police said. “A court of inquiry has been ordered by the Indian Air Force. The cause of the crash is not yet known,” the airforce spokesperson said.
An IAF team rushed to the crash site and took custody of the pilot's body.
The IAF operates over 100 Jaguars in six squadrons which are based at Gorakhpur, Ambala and Jamnagar. The aircraft were inducted by the airforce from late 1970s till mid-80s.
The last Jaguar crash had taken place on October 26, 2007 near Jamnagar in which the pilot had ejected safely. After carrying out upgrades on the aircraft in the last decade, the IAF is also planning to equip the planes with more powerful engines.
On Tuesday, a MiG-21 fighter aircraft crashed while landing at Naal airfield in Rajasthan's Bikaner district, killing the pilot.
According to eyewitnesses in Dilahi Firozpur village, the plane was seen losing height and, at one point, it seemed that it would crash into a residential area but the pilot appeared to have somehow steered it away towards a field. Before hitting the ground, the plane struck a tree, they said, adding that the body of the pilot was found in the debris.
Superintendent of Police Omkar Singh, who rushed to the site, said the debris of the ill-fated plane was scattered in a radius of about one kilometer.
On February 4, a MiG-21 ‘Bison' fighter plane had crashed apparently due to an engine problem while on a routine sortie in Madhya Pradesh's Sheopur district but the pilot had ejected safely.
In 2010, a total of 10 IAF aircraft crashes took place including four MiG-27 and two MiG-21 planes. Defence Minister A K Antony had said in Lok Sabha on Monday that 24 fighter aircraft accidents have taken place in the last three years, in which four service personnel and five civilians lost their lives.
Of these accidents, 23 per cent were due to human error, according to him.
Defence experts said significantly today's crash involved a Jaguar, which was a twin-engine aircraft unlike single-engined MiG-21s and MiG-27s.
They said one of the reasons for choosing Jaguars was that these warplanes had two engines, giving them a better chance of survivability in case one of the engines failed. They said there could be many possible reasons for the crash of the aircraft, which have been there with the IAF for about three decades.
There could be hydraulic failure as also structural problems and all these angles needed to be explored as the planes had aged, they said. PTI