It was a usual Sunday morning for the residents of Shastri Park in New Usmanpur. About 200 people had gathered at the DDA park since 7 am; some to clean their bikes, some for their kabaddi practice and others, such as Irfan and his friends, for a game of cricket.
At 8.30 am, at the Hindon airbase, a microlite aircraft, W-3413, was ready for takeoff for a routine bird-reporting sortie. As the flight climbed to 2,000 ft, Irfan continued with his batting. Close to his half-century, they stopped for a five-minute break. Mid-air, Wing Commander Bidyut Ghosh and Squadron Leader Sumith were now five miles into their recce that was to last two-and-half hours.
By 10.20 am, Irfan and his friends were into their third game when when one of the boys Shehzad pointed towards the sky and said, “Woh dekh, plane gir rahi hai (Look, a plane is falling).” Irfan thought it was a clever ploy. “Tu bas khel, zyada mat bol (Just play, don’t talk too much),” he said.
As he batted, more heads turned to the sky. Irfan ignored them. But he missed the ball. Because what he heard next was a stutter and saw a plane land at the park. He ran, afraid it would hit him. Residents claimed the plane stopped on a small ditch and two pilots got out.
As the engine sputtered to a stop, residents ran towards it and helped move the aircraft out of the ditch. Squadron Leader Priya Joshi, spokesperson for IAF’s Western Air Command said, “It was a microlite aircraft of NCC and it carried out a precautionary landing. The aircraft was on a bird-reporting sortie.”
While residents maintained the aircraft landed in a small ditch, air force officers denied it.
Speaking to Newsline, Wing Commander Bidyut Ghosh, who was flying the aircraft, said, “The flying time was decided at two-and-half hours. Around 10.20 am, we realised there was some snag in the aircraft. We informed the airbase and made a forced landing about 500 m away from the civilian area. Police were prompt in their reaction. Help came immediately. No one was injured.”