Praying lips all smiles as pilots touch base
HERE, nothing is left to chance, or taken for granted. So as the Air Force team was to leave for Cooperative Cope Thunder exercise in Alaska, squadron Commanding Officer, Wg Cdr K.K. Khera’s house was the venue for mahamrityunjay jap. A total of 57 days later, as the team touched down at Ambala today, it seemed to have worked well. Prayers on the lips of kin turning to broad smiles.
Dressed in their best day wear, wives of pilots who took off for Eilson in the United States on June 21 were all smiles as the men touched down to safety this morning.
Brimming with joy, Priyanka Kukreti, wife of Jaguar pilot, Flt Lt Devashish Kukreti, said ‘‘Yes, there were some apprehensions about him flying so far. It is part of our lives. All that we could do was to pray for their safe return. They have, touchwood.’’
Priyanka, whose brother is a paratrooper in the Army, said ‘‘Everyday, we performed pujas and prayed to seek his blessings to ward off any obstacle. We were regularly in touch, though.’’
Waiting in a nearby room was little Isha and her mother Rupali Tomar. Overjoyed to see her father Flt Lt Vikas Tomar back, the child couldn’t control her excitement. ‘‘We did have some apprehensions. We kept our fingers crossed. More than anything else, we were praying for favourable weather.’’
Mother of Flt Lt Vishal Gupta, head of PGI’s Anatomy Department, Prof Madhur Gupta, however, had no fear. ‘‘My husband was in the Air Force. I was never afraid. Today, I am a proud mother. E-mails allowed us to stay in touch regularly.’’
Charged with memories of what he dubbed the ‘‘brightest’’ phase of his career, Wg Cdr Sanjay, who flew the IL 76 transport aircraft observed: ‘‘We did not fear flying for such long hours. We did adequate planning and preparation to help us clock nearly 20,000 km one side.’’ The Wg Cdr added: ‘‘With prayers to the Almighty, everything turned out to be perfect. He showered us with his blessings to succeed in our mission. He was deep in our hearts.’’
Obstacles galore but they made it on time
Recalling their flight across countries and oceans, the pilots said dense clouds in Canada did not quite put them at ease. Commander of the two IL 78 tanker aircraft which refuelled the six Jaguars, Gp Capt Shouvik Roy, said ‘‘The weather was quite demanding, especially in Canada. We encountered lots of low clouds, precipitation and rain. It was coupled with heavy air traffic for Alaska. Still, we were able to reach the destination dot on time.’’