On Air Force Day IAF Proud of Pilot Who Refused to Fly Rahul Gandhi
“I am very proud of the pilot who refused to fly Mr. Rahul Gandhi, because it is not the question of allowing or refusing. It is the question of doing it right,” IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal Norman Browne pointed out in his Pre IAF Day media conference on 05 October 2012.
The IAF helicopter pilot had refused to fly Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on 11 September from Kokrajhar to Guwahati. Mr Gandhi was on a trip to Assam to visit the victims of ethnic violence along with the state Chief Minister Mr Tarun Gogoi and was in Kokrajhar. While Mr Gandhi wanted to fly back to Guwahati urgently the IAF pilot refused to oblige due to bad weather prevailing en route and at the destination.The decision had received widespread media coverage due to the status enjoyed by Mr Gandhi the Congress General Secretary and seen by many as de-facto successor to Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh as well as Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi.
For the typical obsequious culture of India refusal by an IAF pilot minions of Mr Gandhi was sacrilege but the Air Force backed the pilot and very rightly so. The flying conditions in the North East are extremely unpredictable particularly in post noon period. More over in the monsoon the situation deteriorates and the weather report was clearly not conducive to flying. But many would regard this as an extremely courageous decision, though to the credit of the Congress leader, no shindig was raised by him.
The IAF has been under, ‘flak,’ for not flying in Naxal areas as well in the past when weather or ground militancy situation is not favourable, this time it rightly refused to fly a VVIP. In a tragic incident in April 2011, Arunachal Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu lost his life in a Pawan Hans helicopter incident in the North East. Dera Natung, the Arunachal Pradesh education minister, and five others were killed again in Tawang because of poor visibility in May 2001 in a Pawan Hans helicopter crash. The IAF record in comparison is clean.