Friday, 9 May 2008

Micro Light Aircraft Pilots Get Top Indian Award

The Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots, who set a new world record for flying around the globe in a tiny, micro light aircraft, received a coveted Indian military award.
IAF Wing Commander Rahul Monga and his co-pilot, Wing Commander Anil Kumar, were handed the Shaurya Chakra decoration for valor and courage in a peacetime activity earlier this month.

(Wg. Cmdr. Kumar is on the left in the picture, Wg. Cmdr. Monga is on the right of the micro light they guided to this world record.)

The prestigious medal recognized the huge risks the two took while flying their extremely light and cramped aircraft over dangerous parts of the globe last summer in only 80 days, breaking the previous record of 99 days.
AeroMechanical Services played a key role in that effort by providing the technology that allowed the two pilots to stay in constant phone contact with whoever they needed to call from, wherever they were in the world. The technology also allowed the IAF and anyone else to follow the tiny craft on the Internet in real time in the air or on the ground and no matter where it was on the globe.
Pilot Monga is ordinarily a helicopter fighter pilot and co-pilot Kumar flies supersonic jet fighters. Their normal work stood in stark contrast to the single engine micro light they bounced around the skies in. Even the slightest wind could alter the course of a craft that had a takeoff weight – with the two pilots factored in - of less than 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds.)
On one harrowing landing at a remote Chinese airport, the craft shot up into the air on a wind gust just seconds before touchdown. Another attempt ended with the same result but they managed to land on a third try.
They flew over vast plains, dense forests, deserts, the Alps, the Rockies and the wide, iceberg-infested waters of the Davis Strait between Iqaluit in northern Canada and Greenland.
The flight was done to celebrate the IAF’s 75th anniversary and for the two daredevil pilots to be the IAF’s goodwill ambassadors in the 19 countries they flew over and touched down in. AMA’s technology was critical to their success, Wing Commander Monga said after the odyssey ended, because they were frequently able to use the phone to contact local air traffic controllers in order to change flight plans in air when they encountered bad weather.
In addition, the technology brought great comfort because the IAF knew exactly where the craft was flying and it could call in rescue personnel if the pilots were forced to ditch, no matter where they were in the world.
"Everyone at AMA wishes to congratulate Rahul and Anil on this well deserved award,” said AMA CFO, Tom French.
“It took a lot of courage to fly that incredibly tiny machine around our diverse world,” Mr. French said, adding, “AMA was proud to be a small part of that feat and we look forward to helping with future adventures that the IAF or its pilots undertake."