BENGALURU: Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets flew in a "missing man" formation at the inauguration of the Aero India 2019 here on Wednesday as a mark of respect to Surya Kiran aerobatics team pilot Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi, who was killed in a mid-air collision a day ago while practicing for the air show.
The three aircraft formation of Tejas, Jaguar and Su-30 flew past with an empty space for the leader signifying the departure of their comrade.
Recovering from the loss, the IAF said that it lost one of the finest display pilots in Gandhi, who was part of the core group of the world renowned aerobatics group.
The "missing man" formation is the way military aviators pay tribute to a fallen pilot. The tradition of missing man formation was started to pay tribute to Charles "speed" Holman, an American stunt pilot, who died in an air crash in the 1930s.
The Surya Kiran announced that the team "lost a buddy" in Sahil, the IAF -- a professional, and the nation -- a hero.
"Flight is the freedom in purest form, to dance with the cloud which will follow the storm... for each of us is created to die and within me I know I was born to fly," said song capturing the spirit of the team.