Bengaluru: Disaster struck the Flying Bulls at the ongoing Aero India 2015, as two of the aerobatic aircraft collided mid-air at Yelahanka Air Base here on Thursday afternoon.
But despite suffering massive wing and propellor damage, the two uninjured pilots deftly steered the aircraft to safety, avoiding a potential catastrophe. Hundreds of onlookers, many of them schoolchildren, were barely 200 meters from the accident spot.
The drama unfolded at around 3.10 pm, a few minutes into the Czech Republic team’s afternoon aerobatic session. The spectacular stunts in the air went horribly wrong as the tail fin of one plane scrapped against the left wing of another during the ‘wing-over manoeuvre.’ Due to the sudden impact, one aircraft hit the other’s propeller.
Momentarily, the pilots lost control. But the lead pilot, 63-year-old Radka Machova, despite suffering extensive damage to the aircraft, recovered and landed safely. So did the second plane, which too had dents beyond immediate repair. An Indian Air Force (IAF) spokesman later confirmed that both pilots were safe. A precautionary Foreign Object Removal (FOR) parade was carried out on the runway following the accident. The airshow was halted for 40 minutes before the aerobatic displays by other teams took to the skies.
Both aircraft were towed away from the tarmac. Since the damage appeared extensive, a Defence Ministry official indicated that Flying Bulls were unlikely to perform for the reminder of the airshow. For Radka, though, the damage to her German-made XA42 aircraft could accelerate the planned shift to a safer Zlin 50LX aircraft. Eyewitnesses recalled that one of the aircraft almost crash-landed. “We saw one of the planes wobbling heavily before landing. Emergency vehicles and ambulances rushed to the spot. Both the pilots stepped down from the planes on their own,” said Syed Faiz, a business manager, watching the show with his family.However, 56 children from the Great Eastern International Public School, who were squatting right on the tarmac, realised the full impact of the accident much later. Little did they know that they were too close to the spot.
Owned by Red Bull, Flying Bulls arrived for the airshow with a team of three pilots, including Jiri Saller and Krejci. The lead pilot, Radka is a former member of the Czech national aerobatics team. The Bulls’ “Mirror Flight” manoeuvre is a particularly tricky one where two planes fly extremely close. One flies in the normal position while the other flies upside down.