NAVAL AVIATION RECEIVES PRESIDENT'S COLOUR
What a Proud moment for all the Navymen, past and present associated with Naval Aviation, as President of India awards President's Colour to Naval Aviation in Goa today 06 Sep 21, #67 yrs since its inception. Today, sure am I that all Veteran FLYNAVY boys, would be traversing backtrack in Time, into their individual Golden Eras on this August occasion.
Placed below is the Art-work by a Veteran Capt A Chatterjee in its honour. All aircraft past and present depicted. The Naval Aviation has accomplished 67 years of its glorious triumph. Elaborate arrangements had been executed for an impressive ceremony on the expansive Hansa dispersal, but rain-gods tried to play the spoil sport . Albeit the rain couldn't dampen the spirit of the flyboys and the event was accomplished immaculately and gracefully in the Hangar, as per Plan-B. (Videos attached below)
"A momentous occasion to recognise the rich contribution of generations of Flyers, techos, support staff and others associated with us who have made this possible. A worthy occasion to recollect the hard work, dedication, commitment and sacrifices with great pride. May Naval aviation soar higher and continue to serve the navy and the nation with renewed vigour and zeal in the emerging challenging maritime environment." said Commodore Sheshadri Vasan a Naval Aviation Veteran and the President of the Chennai Chapter of Navy Foundation.
INS Hansa, located at Dabolim in Goa, boasted of being the largest Naval Airstation in Asia, until the commissioning of INS Rajali in 1992. The Naval Airbase has a Civil enclave that operates as Dabolim Airport under the control of Indian Navy. The Airstation was commissioned as INS Hansa on 05 Sep 1961 at Sulur with Vampire, Sea Hawks and Alize and shited to Goa in Dec the same year after liberation of Goa. The Airstation since then has been a home to the Sea Hawks and later Sea Harriers (now replaced by MIG29Ks), Kirans, Alizes(replaced by Dornier228), IL-38s, Kamovs-25/28s, Superconnies (replaced by TU-142s). TU-142M had been shifted to Arrakonam on commissioning of INS Rajali, have since been phased out and replaced by Posidon P-8I. Besides the SAR flight 321 of Chetaks is housed in the first hanger along with a CG enclave. The Indian Navy's Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF), which is a mock-up of the 283-metre INS Vikramaditya deck built on the airfield at Hansa is used to train and certify navy pilots of MIG-29K for operating from the aircraft carrier, and for the developmental trials of the naval HAL Tejas. This SBTF was designed by Nevskoye Design Bureau (NDB) of Russia for Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). The Airstation also boasts of a Naval Aviation Museum at the Southern end. Next year Hansa celebrates its Diamond Jubilee amidst great fanfare..
I was privileged to fly the Superconnie in 1981-83. The Navy’s first long range Maritime Reconnaissance squadron was commissioned with five ex IAF Super Constellation aircraft on 08 Nov 76 in INS Hansa. Cdr RD Dhir was the commissioning Squadron Commander. I and my coursemate Gopa kumar had flown the resilient Super-connie for 2 yrs in early 80s at INS Hansa Goa. Resilient, I mention, because in its sunset days with the Navy at Goa, the aircraft although seemed to display fatigue with malfunction of Hydraulics and misfiring of spark plugs, but always brought its crew back safely, after having tested their emergency actions…The aircraft gave some harrowing times to the poor Flight Engineer (FE) stationed behind the copilot, keeping an eye on the 72 sparkplugs of the 4 piston engines, on a scope that resembled an ECG monitor in an ICU..Either you could see the FE busy feathering one of the four engines, due to shorting of a sparkplug or pumping away the emergency hydraulic pump to get the undercarriage down, after an inadvertent drop of Hydraulic pressure due to a small leak somewhere on the old pipelines….DP Ashtekar, R Jayraman, MP Verma and IS Deen are some names that I recall, who ensured their good rapport with the spluttering engines coughing often nearing the fag end of their lives…. We were known as the mighty Albatrosses. The crew room of the mighty Albatrosses was a fun room with crew engaged in scrabble, chess and the never ending tea flowing in…Our eversmiling Snr ‘O’, Late Lt Cdr Rajesh Sharma was an instant wit, who heralded the era of stand in comedy…He once stopped Lt Arya in the sqn corridor and asked him, “ Tu Aa riya hai, ke Ja riya hai ?” (Are you coming or going). Our Snr Flt Engrr, Lt Jayaraman had a quick fix solution for every thing under the Sun. Our Snr ‘P’ Lt Cdr Theograj (later Cmde), was mostly engrossed in his virtual world with his daily changing Novel in the briefing room, before the computers invaded the world and made us realize that there is a real world around us. Lt Rakesh Saxena (later Cmde) with his baby face did make the crew room buoyant with his mere entry. Our Sqn Cdr, Cdr Macaden (later Cmde), was a very soft spoken Officer, who owned a vintage car, but he was mostly seen under his car than inside it as it invariably broke down at the road approaching the wardroom area and we saw him trying out a spanner under it. Our request for pushing it was politely declined with a complementary smile. He was a humble man leading a rowdy pack. If ever there was Life in the Navy, Haminasto-Haminasto-Haminasto (it was here, it was here, it was here). This was the same aircraft that was the pride of Air-India in the ’50s, before being handed over to the IAF. My perfect Naval Salute to the original Albatross of the Naval Aviation , the mighty Super-Constellation.
I had the added privilege of serving in INS Hansa on a second tenure to fly the IL-38s (INAS-315- the Winged stallions) from Jun 1990-Sep 1993. When the cable TV had just entered the Indian Household in early 90s, Wg Cdr AS Bedi decided to produce and direct a Serial on the essence and ethos of Indian Navy with his team in Goa. He had the full support of the organisation. Those were the pre 9/11 days and security wasn't as tight. 'Samandar' was possibly the first commercial serial on our fine Navy. Wg Cdr Bedi casted most of the service officers and sailors as actors. Samir Soni was the main Lead, having done a professional course in acting. Apart from a few professional actors rest were the local inhouse talent. Its always a very sensitive duty to covey about the martyrdom of a service person to his wife/ mother. Our Capt(Air), INS Hansa, Capt Sanjoy Gupta had an impressive short role, as CO of the Air station to convey the unfortunate demise of her only son, LtCdr Shyam to the mother, actress Vanita Malik. Most of the shooting for the serial was conducted at Naval Air Station Goa, where I had been appointed the Base LtCdr (Flying) and Sameer was cast as a young Naval Aviator…I along with Meena and kid had gone to the Naval Canteen on a Sunday afternoon where the shoot was in progress…Wg Cdr Bedi was quite amused by our year old Aakash and instantly cast him and Meena for a fire scene in which the Hero, Sameer rescues Aakash and hands him over to the mother…..Short scene, shot 25 years ago.
The huge IL-38 was a hunter killer, that carried over 200 sonobuoys, not only to locate a submarine in a designated area after being dropped but also calculated its dirn and speed by the onboard sensors, to destroy the enemy’s silent prowler with 2 Plab bombs and an ATE1ME torpedo. The squadron had rendered yeoman service to the Navy with 25 yrs of Accident free flying. Alas, 01 Oct 2002 was the Squadron’s gloomiest Day. Even as it was celebrating it’s Silver Jubilee during noon time at the tarmac with a large gathering of Aviators both serving and Veterans. Two IL-38s flew past the crowd from west to east in a spectacular close formation at low level. A min later there was an emergency Siren from ATC, and all hell went loose. Both the Aicraft had a mid-air collision over Zuari and crashed taking along 12 winged stallions. Saddest Day in the history of Naval Aviation. An occupational hazard that left a deep scar for the Stallions. After 18 yrs the stallions are back on their feet with two replacement aircraft from Russia. The squadron has erected a War memorial ‘Prerna Sthal’ and commemorates 01 Oct every year as ‘Remembrance Day’ in honour of the 12 stallions it lost. The squadron has bounced back and excels on all fronts.
The inscription on the War Memorial reads, “ Commissioned on 01 Oct’77 the Winged Stallions owe their genesis to the tactical acumen and vision of the Indian Naval Personnel, who realised the importance of having a long range MR ASW aircraft flying in support of Naval Task Force.The Squadron has rendered Yeoman service to the Indian Navy and has supported all Operations, Exercises and Intra-Navy ineractions to the Best traditions of the Service. Consequently the IL-38s post the Sea-Dragon upgrade is now capable of Long Range strike with KH-35E ASM and thus we have now become more Potent, more Lethal and a great Force multiplier.” Senior Veteran Cmde RS Vasan, one of the commissioning aircrew and later its Sqn Cdr (now President NFCC) said, “The support for Prerna Sthal has ensured that successive generations are inspired by the hard work of those who lived for the Squadron and kept Navy’s Flag flying high. Naval Aviation is in safe hands.” RAdm PG Philipose, NM (FONA) has decided to name two new multi-storied buildings ‘Prakash’ and ‘Shajimon’ in honour of the two Aircrew senior sailors who went down with the aircraft.
This year as INS Hansa celebrates its Diamond Jubilee, we the Naval Veterans wish the Premier Air Station of the Indian Navy, INS HANSA many more glorious years ahead….May ‘Hansa’ scale new heights in its journey to seek new horizons.
The link to the President's Colour Award event placed below. Double click to view.