Three IAF pilots die in test flight crash near Bangalore

March 6th, 2009 - 7:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, March 6 (IANS) Three Indian Air Force (IAF) test pilots died Friday when the prototype aircraft Saras of the state-run National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) crashed near Bidadi, about 30 km from Bangalore, IAF sources said.
“The Saras aircraft, which took off from the HAL airport in the city at 2.55 p.m. on a test flight, crashed around 4.05 p.m. in a field near Bidadi on the outskirts of the city. The Bangalore rural police told us all the three pilots died after the aircraft caught fire,” an official of the IAF’s aircraft systems & testing establishment (ASTE) told IANS on phone.

The deceased pilots were Squadron Leader Ilairaj, Wing Commander Praveen and Wing Commander Shah.

The 14-seater multi-role Saras is an indigenous aircraft, designed and developed by the Bangalore-based NAL for use by the military and civil aviation sector. NAL is a constituent of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

“The new version of the aircraft was on a regular test flight. It had a smooth take-off from the HAL runway where ASTE is located. About an hour later, the aircraft lost contact with our air traffic control (ATC). We learnt about the crash from the police,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The IAF has rushed a rescue team by helicopter to the crash site.

With NAL director A.R. Upadhya away in Hyderabad, officials associated with the Saras project declined to comment, saying only the director was authorised to speak to the media.

“The director is rushing back to Bangalore from Hyderabad. We will get back with details,” a NAL official said.

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