India has grounded its entire Sukhoi-30 fighter plane fleet and is undertaking a thorough technical check after both the pilot seats in one of the aircraft ejected without command during landing, leading to a crash near Pune recently.
The fleet of about 200 twin-engine Su-30s would be back in air only when they are cleared by the technical review.
The move came after a Su-30 fighter of the Indian Air Force was involved in an accident on October 14 in which both ejection seats had “fired” while the aircraft was coming in to land.
The pilots were safe but the aircraft crashed about 20 kilometre short of the runway.
No loss of life or damage to property was reported. A court of inquiry had immediately been constituted to investigate the cause of the accident.
“Meanwhile, as is the procedure in such cases, the flying of the Su-30 fleet has been temporarily suspended. The CoI is in progress and certain specific checks are being conducted on the aircraft. As and when the checks are complete and the court is satisfied, the Su-30s will be put back into flying,” a statement released by the air force said.
The grounded fleet represents almost a third of the country’s fighter plane fleet.
IAF is down to 34 combat squadrons, as against an authorised strength of 44. Each squadron has up to 18 fighter planes. Incidentally, one of the two pilots was involved in a previous Su-30 crash too.
This was the fifth accident involving a SU-30 MKI since 2009 and the fleet has at least been grounded twice earlier.
Image: The Sukhoi aircraft that crashed in Pune on October 14. Photograph: Yogesh Jadhav