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Old 21st February 2008, 11:45   #1
DKG
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Default Crash landing at Hyderabad in the 1940's

Somewhere back in the latter half of the '40's my father had learnt how to fly and often flew to Madras and Bombay as part of his training. He says while most batch mates took 12 to 15 hours of flying to be allowed solo he achieved that privilege in 9 hours.

Being the charmer that he is he had become a bit of a favourite with his instructor Capt Mondal and so it was customary to accompany Capt Mondal on routine maintainence trips too. On one such trip Capt Mondal, Flight Engineer Chandy, Dad, and an aircraft technician flew a Beachcraft Bonanza to Vizag for some maintenance work on a local aircraft.

Job done these four gentlemen returned to Hyderabad and while preparing to land Capt Mondal flipped the switch that lowered the undercarriage only to realise there was a problem. The undercarriage (wheel assembly) was jammed. The control tower at Begumpet airport fired a red flare to signal the problem to the incoming plane and all ground staff.

Inside the plane an attempt to use the manual overide failed too and it was soon apparent the only option left was a crash landing.

Capt Mondal asked Dad to exhaust the fuel by flying around Hyderabad as the tower wouldn't allow you to land with a lot of fuel.

Dad circled Hyderabad flying over a city he knew intimately, several times flying over our ancestral home on a farm just outside the city. As they kept crossing Begumpet airport several times he noticed activity stepping up at the airport. The family car drives up to the airport. Many more cars started to arrive. Soon he saw several ambulances and fire engines driving in and asked Capt Mondal the need for those. Capt Mondal casually brushed it aside as standard procedure.

I'm sure the senior pilot knew there was a strong chance no one may survive and asked all crew to jump out and run away from the craft as soon as it came to a halt.

With fuel now almost empty the tiny plane made a final approach to Begumpet airport. Capt Mondal had taken the controls and he aligned the flight path to the grass land adjacent to the runway.

Dad remembers distinctly how moments before touchdown the propeller blades broke away as they hit the ground.

A huge wall of dust engulfed the plane as it slithered across the grass like a snake on a hasty exit.

Miraculously all four jumped out to safety and the next minute the fire engines and ambulances rushed in. An obviously excited fire engine driver braked too late and his machine nudged the wing of the craft as he came to a halt. A flight engineer standing next to the wing on the other side got knocked off his feet as the plane swivelled with the fireengine's nudge. He fainted out of shock and ended up being the only one taken in an ambulance to a local hospital.

A crowd of about 2000 people had gathered and amidst cheers the heroes were welcomed home. As his anxious parents rushed to meet him Dad knew this was the end of his flying career and surely later they made it clear they'd have none of it!!
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Old 21st February 2008, 21:49   #2
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Haha..well written,Deepak. Always a pleasure to read articles such as these.
Thank God your dad & his colleagues made it out safely. Too bad for the engineer who hit the ground! Wonder if the fire engine driver hung his boots along with your dad.
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