Behind the scene heroes who ensure a safe sky party
“We work 24 hours. We have to be alert all the time. We are the first to respond in case of any incident inside the base,” says Warrant Officer Pratapan V, who is with the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) team.
As curtains come down on the 11th edition of Aero India at Air Force Station (AFS) Yehalanka on February 18, Mathrubhumi set out on a task to spot the unsung heroes of Indian Air Force (IAF), who have been on their toes for the last one week.
“In case of a crash, our duty is to save the pilot and the equipment. There are 30 people in the team and we work in shifts,” says Pratapan.
The ARFF team has to get familiarized with all types of aircraft that are participating at the show. “We need to understand every safety features of the aircraft. This time there are 20 different types of aircraft at the show,” says Wg Cdr Hitesh Panwar, an Air Traffic Controller.
The team operates 5 Crash Fire Tenders in addition to crash ambulance and SAR (Search and Rescue) paraphernalia.
Ensuring every plane has the best view
Wg Cdr Saurabh Sharma, Chief Flight Instructor (CFI), An-32, AFS Yehalanka, has his task cut out as he has to take care of the entire static display of various aircraft. He has also got the challenging task of ensuring the hospitality of air warriors coming from various bases.
“Headcount becomes an important job as everyone who came in must return at a particular time,” says Wg Cdr Sharma.
Since the number of bay areas are less, his team has to ensure that every aircraft gets proper parking slots with decent visibility.
“Everyone wants best view. We have to look at the taxiing options and the safe distances between each platform,” he says. There are other responsibilities also bestowed upon the team. He said the preparations started five months back.
Making sure that everything goes as per the script
Group Captain B S Beasley, in charge of all flying operations, is a busy-bee at the show. Any aircraft which wants to land and take-off needs his nod. His team also decides which aircraft would land first in case there are many waiting in the wing.
“When I find a particular pilot is not following the flight safety rules, then I can decide upon the next course of action. My job is to ensure that all rules are followed,” he says. He is specifically picked for this task from Agra, where he is Commanding Officer for the 12 Squadron.
With around 100 people reporting to him, Beasley says his team has a very challenging assignment.
“When everyone enjoys Aero India, my team has to ensure that everything goes smooth and as per the plan. If anything goes wrong, we are the first ones to respond,” he adds.
Just two in a team with tonnes of work
Wg Cdr R K Reddy, the officer in-charge of the Aero India Cell, was grabbing a meal before setting out on a mission, when this Correspondent met him. He has the enormous duty of coordinating with all nodal agencies of the show, including security, disaster management, fire, flight display among others.
“We started the work six months back. We had zero-domain knowledge plan of event management but we put our managerial skills so that everything goes by the script,” says Wg Cdr Reddy. He is being assisted by Sqn Ldr K Bhartendu.
He says the challenge is to marry the military and civil agencies. “It is important that everyone knows their role clearly. Remember, every two years the team is changed,” says Wg Cdr Reddy.
‘It is the best coordinated show so far’
The Operations Control Centre (OCC) is probably the most vital wing of Aero India. Wg Cdr V S Yadav, Sqn Ldr Sandeep Krishnan, Sqn Ldr S R Ganguly and Flt Lt Anvesh are part of the IAF team at OCC.
This team interacts with IB officials, Special Forces, NDRF, Bengaluru Police to name a few.
“This is by far the best coordinated air shows. This time we have installed 250 cameras looking outside the base and another 205 looking inside. We have a better traffic management plan in place this time,” says Wg Cdr Yadav.
He says all efforts were pointing towards ensuring that the people who come to attend the show should not be hassled.
“The Karnataka government agencies played a critical role this time with very innovative plans,” he adds.
On the medical side, hotlines have been established with 20 hospitals from OCC. Two choppers and an An-32 is positioned to carry out rescue missions, if need be.
“Timeline checks were conducted multiple times to see the time to be taken from point A to B in case of any emergencies,” says Flt Lt Avinesh.
The leader says the team did it
Air Cmde Tejbir Singh, AOC, AFS Yelahanka, has been credited with the success of this year’s show in terms of the smooth arrangements being made within the base.
His hands-on approach and willingness to back even the youngest member of the team has been appreciated by Air Marshal S R K Nair, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command.
“The AOC Yelahanka and his team deserve all the credits,” says Air Marshal Nair.
Air Cmde Tejbir Singh told Mathrubhumi that he has gone into the nano details while tasking every job.
“Such a mammoth event inside the air base requires a team that can take all the challenges head on. We have begun the preparations six months in advance. The boys have done a great job,” he adds.
He said AFS Yelahanka will soon bring out a coffee table book capturing the best of all Aero India so far. “It is an inspiring mission being undertaken by Sqn Ldr Karthik Ramesh,” he adds.
There are many more air warriors at AFS Yelahanka, who stayed away from the media glare and attention. It is their selfless efforts that make the show more organized each time.
Photo Credit: AFS Yelahanka
(The writer is the Content Consultant with Mathrubhumi (English Online) and tweets @writetake.)