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The Blue Skies Podcast

Author: PR Ganapathy

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The Blue Skies Podcast is an unofficial podcast on the men, women, machines and operations of the Indian Air Force in particular and Indian military aviation in general. Every week, we'll put you in the cockpit with an experienced military aviator.
19 Episodes
In Part One of this three-part miniseries with Air Cmde KC Kuruvilla, we cover his initial journey into the Air Force, a hair raising forced landing in a Hunter, action during the 1971 War for the Liberation of Bangladesh and the mission where he was shot down and captured. In Part 2 we'll cover his incarceration and how he helped 3 of his fellow POWs escape and the consequences of that; In Part 3 we'll cover his repatriation and return to flying. Air Cmde Kuruvilla's profile can be seen here:
In this episode, guest host KS Sreekumar Nair speaks to a legend of the Indian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Cecil Vivian Parker, MVC, VM. AVM Parker talks of some interesting episodes from his long and distinguished Air Force career, such as bailing out from a Tempest with an engine on fire, ferrying a Vampire with a load of lamb chops and landing an aircraft with a hung napalm bomb, an extremely dangerous undertaking. He also speaks of being chastised by then Air Cmde (later Air Chief Marshal) PC Lal for unauthorized low flying, and hosting the Governor of AP, Mrs. Sharda Mukherjee (wife of late Air Marshal Subroto Mukherjee), at an AF Day party, which was how the Hakimpet Airmen's mess got its first black and white TV. AVM Parker's career profile is here: exploits during the 1971 war are here: guest host KS Sree Kumar Nair's books can be purchased here:
In this episode, we interview Sqn Ldr Pushp Kumar Vaid, Flt Cdr of 110 HU. His detachment of Mi-4 helicopters provided battlefield mobility to the legendary GOC of 4 Corps, Lt. Gen. Sagat Singh, during the 1971 war for the liberation of Bangladesh. Sqn Ldr Vaid describes how they airlifted a Battalion of 4/5 Gurkhas to Sylhet under heavy enemy fire, thereby holing up the Brigade there till the end of the war. He then goes on to describe airlifting a whole Brigade across the Meghna river, that allowed the dash for Dacca. He then describes the mood in Dacca during the surrender ceremony and his experience accompanying Bollywood stars who came to entertain the troops. Sqn Ldr  Vaid then left the Air Force to fly helicopters for British Airways, where he had a miraculous escape from an in-flight breakup of a Chinook helicopter in the North Sea. We conclude the interview with his description of that event.Sqn Ldr Pushp Vaid's profile can be found here: more about the Battle of Sylhet from Brig Rattan Kaul of 4/5 Gurkhas: about the Meghna Crossing from Major Chandrakant Singh:
Last chance to enter in the surprise gift sweepstakes! Take our survey and enter your email ID for a chance to win: this episode, we interview Air Cmde Ashok D. Chhibbar about his experiences and career in the Air Force. With his long experience flying fighter aircraft like the MiG-21 and equally long experience at various positions in the instruction and training arena, he discusses training philosophy of the Air Force, the gradual increase in responsibilities, qualities that make a military aviator, and tells of his experience ejecting from a MiG-21 on fire.Air Cmde Chhibbar's career profile can be found here: books on Amazon can be found here:
Join Air Cmde HS Sahota as he describes some interesting anecdotes of his long and successful career in the Air Force - from getting lost in a Vampire above the clouds, to chasing Pakistani B-57s away from Mumbai and firing rockets from a Mi-17 against LTTE rebels in Vavuniya. He also reveals the secrets of how he won the first 3-Star "Marksman of the Air Force" badge.Air Cmde HS Sahota's career profile is here: link to his book on Amazon is here:
In this episode we get into the cockpit of an Army Aviation Cheetah (Lama 315B) with Col Mohit Verma and ride along as he lands his helicopter in tight spots to support forward troops, evacuate casualties, and provide aerial guidance to the artillery. Read more about the Cheetah here: more about Army Aviation Corps here:
We need your feedback: - it will just take 5 minutes!It's MiG time! Gp. Capt. PI Murlidharan Menon takes us into the cockpit of his beloved MiG-21, which he describes as a "sports car". He describes the skills required for air combat, and his experiences operating against different aircraft, standing first in the Fighter Combat Leader's course, and being an instructor on that course (a real "Top Gun"). He also speaks about commanding a MiG-23 MF (Air Defence) squadron.Gp. Capt. Menon's profile can be found here: information on the Tactics and Combat Development Establishment, TACDE, can be found here: later version of the doctrine of the Indian Air Force can be found here: leader of the team that wrote this version appears on a later episode of the Blue Skies)Gp Capt Menon's writings for The Tribune can be found here:
In this action packed episode, Wg. Cdr. (Retd) CM Jaywant tells us about his experiences flying three different fighter aircraft - (1) A Gnat / Ajeet where he had a engine failure at low level but managed to force-land (land without an engine) the aircraft safely, (2) the MiG-23/27 where he fired the X-29 TV Guided missile and conducted offensive sweeps over the Siachen Glacier, and (3) the MiG-25, where he flew a mission chasing a solar eclipse at high speed across Northern India. Wg. Cdr. Jaywant's profile can be found here: about the Gnat / Ajeet at this special page: about the MiG-25 here:
In this episode, we interview a pilot who had more than 1,500 flying fighters, became a test pilot and then transitioned to helicopters, where he commanded a squadron of the lethal Mi-35 "Akbar" (Nato Codename: Hind) helicopter. Learn about the Mi-35 here: about a project to upgrade the aircraft here: about 104 Helicopter Unit: Capt. Pradeep Mulay's profile is here:
In Part 2 of this 2-part interview, Wg. Cdr. Joseph "Tommy" Thomas discusses his journey as a Test Pilot, including training at USAF Test Pilot's School, Edwards AFB, California (where among other things, he learned how to land an F-104 without an engine), an ejection from an Iskra in an unrecoverable flat spin, and an incident where the nosewheel of a Marut locked up and dragged him off the runway.Learn more about USAF TP School at about India's Test Pilot's School at and its flight test establishment, ASTE (Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment) at
In this episode, we hear from Wg. Cdr. Joseph "Tommy" Thomas about his experiences as a young Dakota pilot in the 60s, flying vital supplies to soldiers in J&K in a fully loaded aircraft, threading his way through the valleys and operating at the margin of the performance envelope. We also hear about his experience flying the Photo Reconnaissance ("PR") Canberra, mapping the borders and the length and breadth of the country. Wg. Cdr. Joseph Thomas was commissioned into the Transport stream of the IAF in 1962. He later qualified as a Test Pilot at USAF Test Pilot's School, Edwards AF Base, California and set up India's Test Pilot School and ran the first few Production TP courses. We will speak to him about his test flying experiences in Part 2 of this interview, next week.His interview about mapping the country's border, referenced in this interview can be accessed at Cdr. Thomas' profile can be seen at: more about Canberras at: PR Canberras in particular at:
Building on last week's episode with G/C Ajit Agtey, where he discussed the trials that led to the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) for the DARIN Navigation and Attack system, this week, we speak to a squadron pilot who used that system in a specialist maritime strike role. Hear about how Jaguars operate over the sea, do air-to-air refueling, and find and hit a target with pinpoint accuracy the first time they pass over it. Gp. Capt. Sandeep Balyan's profile can be found here: gallery of Maritime Jaguars can be seen here:
Get into the cockpit of a Jaguar with Gp. Capt. Ajit Agtey in Part 2 of this two-part interview, and hear about the trials leading to Initial Operational Clearance for the DARIN Jaguar. In that you'll learn how he won a case of Champagne from a French engineer. He also talks about his experiences fitting AN-12 engines on an AN-32 and other test flying experiences.You can read more about the DARIN in this wonderful blog post by Air Cmde TK "Tiku" Sen --
In Part one of this interview, Gp Capt Ajit Agtey describes his journey joining the Air Force, being trained as an operational pilot on the Gnat as the dark clouds of war gather in 1971. He then talks about his experiences in the war, and an emergency that forced him to eject from that same aircraft, the Gnat. View Gp Capt Agtey's profile at this link:
Join us in Part 2 of Air Marshal (then Fg. Offr.) Harish Masand's recounting of his experiences during the 1971 war against Pakistan for the Liberation of Bangladesh. In this episode he describes how he shot down a Pakistani F-86 Sabre, and later hit Government House, in the middle of a crucial meeting of the Pakistani leadership. That attack had a key role in breaking their confidence and resulted in their surrender shortly thereafter.View Air Mshl Masand's profile on Bharat Rakshak. View a few articles he wrote on his lessons and experiences on our Blog Page.
As they say in the military, you sweat in peace so you don't in war. Join young Air Marshal (then Flying Officer) Harish Masand as he recounts the story of his experiences joining the Air Force, and struggling to find opportunities to train to fly the Hunter fighter aircraft in the days leading up to the 1971 War for the Liberation of Bangladesh. View Air Mshl Masand's profile on Bharat Rakshak. Read an article he wrote about his experience in the lead up to the war at:
In retaliation to the Pakistan Air Force's attack on Indian airfields on 6th Sep, 1965, IAF squadrons attacked Sargodha, the PAF's largest base, the next day, in broad daylight. Listen to Air Marshal (the Fg. Offr.) Philip Rajkumar recount his experience of that daring raid. Read more:His article on the attack at Bharat Rakshak.An excellent article by Sameer Joshi in The Print.  View Air Marshal Rajkumar's profile at Bharat Rakshak.Links to his books:The Tejas StoryRadiance in Indian Skies
Air Marshal (then Flt. Lt.) PM Ramachandran recounts the story of his attacking and blowing up a Portuguese Patrol Boat in Diu during Ops Vijay. The Patrol Boat, the "NRP Vega" may have been on a suicide mission, packed with explosives, to ram into INS Delhi, which was anchored offshore directing operations to liberate the island.Some useful links:Air Marshal Ramachandran's profile on Bharat RakshakAir Marshal Ramachandran's Wikipedia pageHis article on the episode on Bharat RakshakThe Portuguese Navy on WikipediaAn overview of the Liberation of Goa on Wikipedia and Bharat Rakshak.Thanks to Bharat Rakshak for the content and photographs. 



Ever wondered what it's like to be a Military Aviator in India? Subscribe to the Blue Skies Podcast to find out! Every week we put you in the cockpit through a conversation with a member of the Indian Air Force, Army or Navy.
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