Pune, Dec 13: A Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft of the IAF today crashed soon after taking off from Lohegaon airbase near here but both the pilots managed to bail out safely.
“Both the pilots flying the aircraft ejected in time and landed safely. They have been evacuated and taken to the base for medical attention,” IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Gerard Galway said.
The aircraft, which was on a routine mission, had taken off from Lohegaon airbase at 1245 hours. It crashed at 1310 hours, he said.
“A Court of Inquiry (CoI) has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the crash and an IAF team has been rushed to the site of the wreckage,” he said in New Delhi. He said the aircraft lost contact with the base after apparently developing a technical problem, but the pilots managed to eject out safely in time. No casualty was reported on the ground, he said.
Pune Collector Vikas Deshmukh said the plane caught fire after crashing at an open forest department land. Fire tenders from the vicinity had been rushed to the spot, he said.
This is the third crash of the Russian origin Su-30 fighter planes since they were inducted into the IAF in 1997.
Today's crash is the eighth mishap involving IAF fighter aircraft this year. Seven MiG series aircraft had crashed earlier this year.
Before the SU-30 accident, a MiG-21 Bison had crashed in Sirsa in Haryana on December 2. During last three years, the IAF has lost 30 fighter aircraft and 10 helicopters in various crashes.
26 defence personnel including 13 pilots have lost their lives in these crashes along with six civilians on the ground.
The first crash involving a Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft took place near Jaisalmer district in Rajasthan in 2009, 12 years after its induction in the IAF.
That fighter aircraft, which was flown by Wing Commanders S V Munje and P S Narah, was returning to its base in Pune after completing a mission in Pokhran Firing Range near Jaisalmer.
While bailing out of the crashing aircraft, the parachute of Munje functioned properly but that of Narah failed to open, killing him on the spot.
The second accident involving air-superiority SU-30 fighter aircraft took place in December 2009 near Indian Army's Chandan firing range in Jaisalmer district, south-west of the Pokhran range.
The plane was on a routine training sortie when it lost contact with the base. No one was hurt in this accident as both the pilots managed to eject safely.
A CoI was ordered after both the incidents and due corrective measures were taken on basis of the recommendations of the inquiries, IAF sources said.
Sukhoi's 20 Squadron ‘Lightinings' and 30 Squadron ‘Rhinos' are based in Pune and the 24 Squadron ‘Hawks' are located in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh.
IAF has begun deployment of these aircraft in north-eastern region as well.