At 76, a top gun chases passion, blue skies - The New Indian Express

At 76, a top gun chases passion, blue skies

Published: 17th November 2012 10:40 AM

Last Updated: 17th November 2012 10:40 AM

It was 1953, a blitzkrieg of excitement and an admiration of sorts took over now retired Air Vice Marshal Ajit Lamba (Veer Chakra), when he joined the Indian Air Force.

 The flying chunk of engineered metal was something that this young man fell in love with.

 He has petted the old Vampires and the Toofanis, disciplined the Hunters, tamed all the hubristic versions of the MiGs and the Jaguar, calmed the helo and even lightened the heavyweight but humble transporters.

Today, for him, it is impossible to enjoy wasting time doing nothing.

According to him, it is even more exhausting when idling.

So how does he keep himself occupied at this age? “I still fly and I am still working with the flying machines,” he states.

After his retirement as the commandant from the prestigious Aircraft & Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE), a premier unit of the Indian Air Force which evaluates aircraft and systems for induction into user organisations, he joined Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) as SA to RM (Scientific Adviser to Raksha Mantri) from 1991 to 1994.

Later, he kept himself occupied with flying related activities of the Aeronautical Society of India.

Breathing the Bangalore air since 1986 and today 76 years old, AVM Lamba is still in love.

Even at this age, AVM Lamba flies a 2-seater microlight, which he has named Pegasus (Greek mythology’s winged divine horse), a gift from his wife on his 70th birthday.

“I have flown all my life and used to fly other organisation’s aircraft.I cannot get near a military aircraft now but thanks to my wife, I have my own aircraft and I get air borne once every week.” For AVM Lamba, flying is an exhilarating experience.“

Once you are up there, there is peace of mind. I don’t know anything else other than flying because that is what I have done all my life,” he says.  In his youth, he was not a mitty; never dreamt about flying.

It was in the family. “I come from a service family as all my brothers were in the services. My father wanted me to join Indian mines. So I had to write the mining exam as well.

Fortunately I flunked. I cleared the service exams and my choice was Air Force mainly because of the perceived thrill.

Also, the Air Force uniform looked the best, especially the winter uniform,” he chuckles. Once in, he wished to be a fighter pilot and stood first in the flying batch not because of being a pseud or a poseur, but because of an intense intrigue. With the progress of time, he became a test pilot enabling him to fly a variety of planes.

“I have flown every aircraft that the IAF possessed. I would have flown more than 100 aircraft in the country and abroad. I had very limited tenures on the ground,” he says. Today he is more than satisfied with his wife’s gift. “My microlight can fly three hours at a stretch covering about 250 kms,” he says.

According to him, there are not many hobby fliers in Bangalore. “It is not easy to get a microlite pilot’s licence. Then there are issues of hangarage, flying facilities, regulatory hassels, apart from it being an expensive hobby.

” The 2-seater microlite aircraft is reasonably priced, according to him and uses ordinary automobile fuel. “The microlite may cost about Rs 15 lakhs,” he says.

Today, AVM Lamba is not only an aircraft man, he is also the nestor of the aircraft business.

He is currently working with Safran, a world-class manufacturer of aircraft and rocket engines and propulsion systems, and aircraft equipment as an advisor.

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