BANGALORE: It happens only in Bangalore! A cold shower next to the tarmac the moment a fighter pilot steps out of the cockpit! Sounds strange and weird? Well, ask any Test pilot flying India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas and he would say: “Cool Dude! I’m loving it.” For the last 11 years, ever since Tejas first took to the skies, pilots have been given a must-shower on arrival. Condition: It has to be a maiden flight. Forecast: One balti-blast. Warning: Spare overall must.
The latest pilot to stand the ‘test of waters’ was Gp Capt K K Venugopal, when he successfully took the Limited Series Production (LSP-7) aircraft of Tejas for a 28-minute sky-test on March 9. On landing and stepping out of the cockpit, the elated engineers and technicians of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) removed his helmet only to give him the customary bath.
When Express chased the story behind the shower, sources said that it was a tradition set by HAL to ring in good luck.
“When you do a solo for the first time, a bottle of champagne used to be sprayed on the pilot at times. In HAL, a bucket of water became the norm and now we are prepared every time we do a maiden flight,” sources said. HAL officials say a ‘spot-on-shower’ for the pilots brings good luck. “It weeds away the bad evil and it’s our way of welcoming the pilot who would have undergone severe stress and strain, flying a new fighter for the first time,” sources said.
Former Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal (Retired) F H Major said that he wasn’t sure why such a tradition existed in HAL.
“As far as I know, it is definitely not an Indian Air Force tradition. Well, difficult to trace the origin and God knows why it is done,” Major said.
While the Test pilots in Bangalore can’t escape the surprise shower every time they land after a maiden flight, there’s an interesting custom being practiced at the airport. Every new airline landing at the Bangalore International Airport (BIA) is welcomed by a water arch. “It is a tradition world over and we are first one to do it in India. The aircraft goes through an arch created by fire tenders positioned at both sides of the runway,” BIAL President Hari Marar tells Express.
But, the BIAL spares the pilot and passengers from the shower.
Though, it would have been an innovative idea during this Summer!