Inbound for landing

Kamal Baruah

We gazed in awe at two supersonic fighters, taking off together in formation from the runway. It‘s the Jamnagar Air Force base, we had our days of aviation in early 2K. Besides intense wargames of over hundred sorties in a day, the airfield owned by IAF, permits both commercial as well as private flights. Until recently, the airport handles just six scheduled flight on a normal day from Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and back, besides it’s a premier fighter base for IAF ever since 1951, witnessing a long history.


The combat aircraft launched from this Air Base, have contributed immensely in inflicting damage at Karachi in Pakistan during 1965 and 1971 Wars and also in liberation of Diu in 1961. Its helicopters and transport aircraft were used in peace time operation during Bhuj earthquake in Jan 2001, Tsunami in Dec 2004 and flood-relief operation at Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. The evacuation of Indian from Yemen in April 2015, a C-17 Globe master was sent to Djibouti from its base.


Recently, Jamnagar turned into a temporary international airport for Ambani’s Pre-Wedding bash, handling over 300 private and chartered flights. The place made headlines over the “band baaja for baaraat”, that creating a hassle for the airport operations staff, when business magnates like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg graced the occasion. Were they wanderlust to travel India for big wedding? Shockingly, the celebration broke the internet.


It was an affair full of glitz and glamour with Bollywood stars aside from pop star Rihanna’s amazing performance with her distinctive and versatile voice. Invites guests were fabulously banqueted and loaded with gifts and they had a good vive to witness such lavish affairs. Fat, as any hardcore foodie would tell us, is where the flavour is. Were that three days wedding so hip? I wonder how a single terminal could handle more than 150 passengers at a given time, when thousands of guests arrived for Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant wedding celebration.


Meanwhile, I recall of one occasion, while we were an early bird of our aviation days for hectic early party flying activities. It was another sizzling summer day; we were swamped and felt beat after handling Russian Sukhoi SU-30 at Service Bay on a hot tarmac. In the meantime, while sipping coffee, a pilot of a chartered flight using its call sign to established contact with our Air Traffic Controller through radio communication “VHF” on a designated frequency for stating intention to request permission to land.


Pilots need to follow a specific procedure to ensure that ATC can properly identify and track the aircraft on radar. ATC considers various factors such as runway availability, air traffic congestion and weather conditions before granting or denying permission. It was shocking before disclosing relevant information such as current position and altitude; the flight went on descending to its own altitude, designated flight path and speed towards the white stripes before any “affirmative” clearance for an approach and landing from tower controller.


We all were chickened out for a moment. It was no sweat, the aircraft touched down its wheel on the runway without additional guidance such as wind direction and runway conditions to ensure a safe landing. After a forced successful landing, there was a shocked silence. This is wack! – the controller murmured. The flight was in hot water. Fortunately, all the flying activities of Squadron came to a standstill during that time Later it became the subject of much IAF fling gossip.


Such was the time, when there was only one chartered flight “Dornier” from Reliance used to land at JGA (IATA Code) airstrip for their employees working in Refinery in the morning and subsequently takes off in the evening. No biggie, no sweat. As the passengers were out of there, we were on a roll to see India’s billionaire very often.


Gujarat’s Jamnagar sprung to life in recent times and I am stuffed but parched as the guests dressed up in elegant evening cocktail attire and were being treated to chilled refreshing drinks. It was another mesmerizing occasion at Jamnagar, turning its airport to international tag for such a short stint of ten days, while IAF went beyond its usual protocols, permitting access to its sensitive technical area.


The Dornier–228 was probably acted in haste, without understanding the situation. The flying of one and half hour from Mumbai to Jamnagar and back was Reliance’ extravaganza, when they pick their destination, the departure, the arrival, and their crew. We were hyped to receive the chartered flight then.





© All Rights Reserved.