Flying in F-16 most exhilarating after Olympics: Bindra

February 13th, 2009 - 12:13 am ICT by IANS  

F-16Bangalore, Feb 12 (IANS) Indian ace shooter and Olympics Gold medallist Abhinav Bindra was on cloud nine Thursday after he flew in US fighter jet F-16IN of global aerospace major Lockheed Martin at Aero India international air show at Yelahanka air base near here.
“Most exhilarating experience I had after the Olympics and probably for the rest of my life,” a beaming Bindra told reporters after he was flown as a ‘co-pilot’ by Lockheed test pilot and former US Navy pilot Paul Randall for 45 minutes on board.

The 26-year-old shooter joins the elite list of Indian fliers such as Tata group chairman Ratan Tata, who flew as a co-pilot in F-16 during the 2007 biennial air show here, and former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who flew in Indian Air Force (IAF) combat aircraft Sukhoi-30MKI in Pune in June 2006.

“Words cannot explain the excitement I underwent in those 45 minutes on board F16IN. It was simply ecstatic and I am still coming to terms with my experience. It was probably similar to what I felt when I won the Olympic Gold in Beijing last August,” an excited Bindra said.

Taking off from the IAF station at Yelahanka, 20 km from this tech hub, in the presence of his parents and sister, Bindra kept on skyscraping for 45 minutes in an American pilot suite before landing to a thunderous welcome.

“It was a wonderful experience. I am proud that I was part of it. The Super Viper is a great machine,” Bindra said.

The Super Viper is touted to be the world’s best fighter plane with an unsurpassed performance by veteran air force pilots the world over, the company claimed in a statement.

“I salute all those brave men who risk their lives to fly in the air to shoot targets unknown and invisible to them, and all this because they love their country. The F16IN - I believe is a step towards making the lives of these brave men a little easy and make them better equipped miles above in the air,” the statement quoted Bindra saying after the flight which took him up to Mysore, about 140 km from here.

Randall, who piloted the strike fighter, said it was a pleasure to have Bindra as a ‘co-pilot’ as he picked up everything very quickly.

“Abhinav is very sharp. Even during the preparation in the run-up to the sortie, he was cool. The concentration he had was much like a pilot,” Randall said though Bindra did not take control of the aircraft.

Lockheed business development vice-president Orville Prins said it was a pleasure to have Bindra experience flying in a fighter jet.

“The F16IN and Abhinav were the perfect fit, as both of them are known for their unmatched performance and unsurpassed accuracy to achieve targets,” Prins asserted.

Abhinav’s elated father I.S. Bindra said the US government extended the invitation to his son to fly in F-16IN, specifically designed for the IAF.

“Before he flew, we had a meeting with the Lockheed team. The preparations, including a thorough health check-up and briefing about the flight began in the morning, followed by a familiarisation visit to the aircraft on ground,” Bindra Senior pointed out.

Abhinav’s mother Babli Bindra said her son was fond of aircraft since childhood and played with toy planes for long.

“We never dreamt that one day he would fly (in) a fighter jet. We were a bit apprehensive initially before the take-off but were overjoyed when he landed safely,” Bindra’s sister Divya said.

The fourth generation F-16IN is in race for the IAF order floated to induct 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) into its depleting fleet and as a replacement in phases to the ageing Russian-made MiG-21 fighters.

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