In 1963, an Indian Navy sailor named AS Gill, who was a Leading Aircraft Ordnance Mechanic, stole a Navy fighter jet from the Meenambakkam civil airport in Chennai.
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On August 12, 1963, a British-made single-engine Hawker Sea Hawk aircraft taxied out and took off from the Meenambakkam civil airport in Chennai.
For the denizens of this southern Indian city, nothing was remiss. But, the roar of the fighter jet taking off on an off day triggered a flurry of frenzied activities in the Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower.
It turns out an Indian Navy sailor, Leading Aircraft Ordnance Mechanic, AS Gill, bitten by the flying bug, had managed to fly away with a Sea Hawk tail number IN 163.
The sailor had never learned to fly Sea Hawk but became the first pilot to come out alive after landing the aircraft on the eastern sea coast. He not only survived the ditching but hardly suffered any injury.
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It was a routine home-porting for the Indian Aircraft Carrier INS Vikrant during the monsoons. The Sea Hawk aircraft onboard were housed in the hangar at the civil airport in Chennai and were clocking 50-60 sorties every day. The 25-year-old aircraft mechanic was a privately trained flier and an avid air modeler.
His passion for military aviation made him apply to the Indian Air Force and become a Naval aviator in the Indian Navy. His efforts did not get desired results owing to bureaucratic hurdles, but his desire to fly a fighter jet was ablaze unabated.
“I have been trying to get in touch with him or his family. But I have not been successful. I gathered during my research that he moved to Canada and passed away two years ago,” Vice Admiral (Retd) Vinod Pasricha, who has written a book ‘Downwind, Four Green’ on the fighter jet, told the EurAsian Times.
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