|Wg Cdr (retd) Unni Pillai, HAL's Chief Test Pilot and General Manager (Rotary Wing). According to Unni, a veteran of many air shows, a Test Pilot needs to stay calm all the time. He prescribes a best medicine: Yoga.|
Photo: Sudhakar Jain
By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: Every pilot flying at Aero India, be it aerobatics or normal display, dread one man who controls the entire flying activities of the show -- the Flying Display Director. He ensures that no one spoils the sky party, by playing it to the galleries, knowingly or otherwise. Fall in line and fly safe – that’s the simple mantra for pilots at Aero India.
Explaining the features of validation flights to Express on Sunday, Wg Cdr (retd) Unni Pillai, Chief Test Pilot, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), said that an air show is a dangerous business and the pilots will have to always play the game as per the rules. “The pilots might in excitement cross some boundaries, which can end up in crash and resulting in injuries to the public, during air shows. This has happened many a times during air shows. Here, the role of display becomes crucial,” says Unni, a seasoned Test pilot.
The display director briefs the pilots about the margins as part of his policing role. “The edge of the runway is called the fault line. No aircraft can cross this while flying in air. Again, you cannot fly over the spectators. In special cases formation flights are cleared to fly over the people,” says Unni.
He said the pilots are also told about the vertical limits, which are monitored by high-end cameras. The pilots are also barred from flying below 500 feet in during any maneuver, except during take-off and landing. “During validation flights, ahead of the show, your capability to fly in the allotted areas, at an allotted time is checked. The director also checks whether you are performing within the space constrains,” says Unni, who has flown in air shows, world over.
During the show, the pilots are warned once for any transgressions and a repeat of the mistake will earn them termination from the show. Unni said that at Paris and Farnborough air shows, the display director provides the pilots with a trace of the path they have undertaken during the show. “The trace is given during the debriefing sessions and this practice is yet to come to India,” he added.