Veteran IAF pilots relive 1971 photo, image goes viral: The Tribune India

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New Delhi, April 30

Months before the Indo-Pakistani war broke out in 1971, it was just another working day for the five young pilots of IAF 22 Squadron in Kalaikunda as they moved around camouflaged nets and concrete explosion pens in their black suits and bikes, saving themselves for the action.

Realizing the similarities between their appearances and Jawa bikes, they decided to capture the moment in the camera. The five Gnat pilots posed happily for a photo with one hand on the gas tank and a cigarette hanging carelessly from the lips of one of them.

None of them had a clue that the photo you clicked almost 50 years ago will go viral on social media in 2019.

IANS spoke with Wing Commander Sunith Soares, Air Vice Marshal AK Shyam, Group Captains PM Velankar and Ashok Bhagwat (all retired) – who were tracked down by Jawa Motorcycles and were forced to recreate the photo with only one difference, the fifth man missing from the 1971 photo — group captain V. Pashupati who is no more.

A fifth bike was placed with only a helmet in a missing man formation, an Air Force way of honoring a fallen pilot.

“It was 1971, we knew war was going to break out, there were few thefts and most of the day we just sat and tried to waste time while we preserved for an hour,” Sunith Soares recalls. .

“There was a big bang coming to visit us so we decided to stay in our overalls which were jet black. We didn’t even have a squad crest so we called ourselves Hell’s Angels inspired by the group. of American bikers wearing black jackets and riding Harley Davidsons, and wearing the crest on the sleeve, ”he said, explaining how they were linked to the brave biker gang who he said were“ like us ”.

The Hells’s Angels became Saber Slayers as the war ended when the formation Soares was flying in downed three Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Saber jets in what became one of five best battles of the modern jet era. . The squadron was then officially housed under the name “Swifts”.

Air Vice Marhal Shyam recalled that he was only 21 when the photo was taken.

“I used to drive in my Jawa in the squadron like all the other pilots. I bought the bike in Jamshedpur. That day (when the photo was taken) it came to us at the mind we all had the same bikes so we decided to take a picture.

“It was spontaneous. We didn’t plan it,” said Shyam, who then formed the IAF’s first aerobatic team, Thunderbolt flying Hunters, at Hashimara in 1981 and was later assigned to the high- Indian police station in Sri Lanka before retiring as Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) in Nagpur-based Maintenance Command.

“I bought the bike for around 5,000 rupees and after using it for 13 years I sold it to Siliguri for around the same amount,” he said.

“At that time, every fighter pilot aspired to have a Jawa or an Enfield. The majority had a Jawa. I also bought a bike for around Rs 5,000 which stayed with me for 13 years and took it with me. everywhere I went, ”said the group’s captain. Ashok Bhagwat.

Prime Minister Velankar, the fourth man in the picture, said there was nothing special about the picture as it was just another day and it was spontaneous action.

“We were sitting on the bikes and someone clicked on it,” he said, expressing surprise at how viral it has gone.

Ashish Joshi, CEO of Classic Legends of Jawa Motorcycles, told IANS it was heartwarming to hear them share their experiences.

The starting point for bringing them together was the old photo of them sitting on the bikes. Jawa invited them to the fundraising event where Rs 1.49 crore raised from the 13 motorcycle auction was handed over to Kendriya Sainik’s board and recreated the image. – IANS

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