IT HAPPENED TO US
It was a bright late afternoon in the mid ‘80s as we took off from Palam, in our F-27 beauty to convey our DGCG and his entourage to Bombay. I was then on deputation to the white water Navy – The Indian Coast Guard. Lt Sujoy Ganguly (popularly known as ‘Gangs’) was our Flight Observer (navigator). Having undergone the rigors of the seaking sonar/radar operations, he found solace in captaining the Fokker. A young CG copilot, fresh from the flying club, rattled out the checklist during the smooth climb. The flight at level 160 was uneventful as the Sun very slowly glided down through the distant clouds on the horizon, engulfing the Western Sky with its pinkish charm. This was one of the flights to a very familiar and favorite destination of ours.
As we approached Bombay, the serene dusk transformed into slow darkness as the weather turned cloudy with a few cumulus thrown around, besides a couple of distant Cumulo-Nimbus clouds(CBs) South-East of Bombay. The Bombay Area Control cleared us for descent and handed us over to Bombay Radar, who identified us on its scope and cleared us down to 3500 ft and directed us to report over the outer marker. We were soon in clouds and I got onto instruments with the cockpit lights dimmed. The radar picture was cluttered up. Flying on instruments with ADF (Automatic Direction Finder) tuned and needle 12 O’clock, waiting for the needle to unlock. Gangs supplemented the copilot’s efforts in looking out visually through the thick clouds to identify any land-marks. The wait seemed endless. R/T (Radio-Telephony) call to the Radar Controller revealed that he had lost us on his scope. Gangs chipped in with his mental DR (Dead-Reckoning), ”Dats we have crossed the OM”. Just then we broke clouds in the Ghats East of Bombay, as the outline of the towering hills was visual in the backdrop of
loom to our
starboard. “OOOUFFF..” We could have well
been sitting on top of the hills but for our good luck. Both throttles to MCP (Max
continuous power) and I immediately commenced climbing and executed a turn onto
starboard keeping clear of the dark protrusions in the backdrop of Bombay loom
visually. The subsequent ILS Let down and Landing had been smooth, as the
airfield had witnessed a passing shower. The reception party with the COMCG-WEST,
had been eagerly waiting to receive the DGCG as the aircraft taxied in after
having revised its door opening time. Bombay
What later emerged was that the ADF needle had locked onto a distant CB, as we homed onto it and got out of the not-so-alert radar controller’s scope. After seeing of the VIP, our fuming Gangs went to the Radar Controller to ease off his pent up emotions. Nonetheless this flight did turn us a lot wiser.
PS- This article is a humble tribute to my very Jovial and humorous Observer/ Navigator, Late Cdr Sujoy ganguly, who left us for his heavenly abode in Oct 2013, due cardiac arrest.