I love my India and want it to be the best in the world. It has the talent and capability. The state has constantly deteriorated in last six decades. The downfall is due to low quality, incompetent and corrupt leadership, unaccountable, equally corrupt bureaucracy and ineffective judiciary unable to fulfil people's aspirations resulting in unparalleled corruption and lawlessness. Drastic changes are necessary to make systems vibrant and responsive to make it an India of every Indian's dreams.
An Unparalleled and Daring feat of an Air Force Flying Cadet, RB Menon who lost the Opportunity to be an Air Force Officer
I wish to congratulate Somdev Rao Madala of 25th NDA course 'F' Squadron to have narrated a true life anecdote of his course mate, Flying Cadet, RB Menon, Ex Cadet from 25th NDA course, 'K' Squadron,undergoing final flying training at PTE, Allahabad, during 1963-64 period, to be commissioned in the Indian Air Force. I also appreciate Somdev for having briefly narrated the circumstances which led Menon to embark upon such a daring and adventurous but uncalled for action careerwise, as to annoy his bosses so much, for which he had to lose the opportunity to be an officer in the Indian Air Force.
Here I am placing the NDA days Photographs, both of25th NDA course vizCadet RB Menon 4225-K (The Performer) and Cadet Madala Somdev Rao 4141-F (The narrator)
Cadet RB Menon 4225-K
our course mates who should find place in the memory-lane of the extraordinary
and the remarkable of our 25th NDA course 'K' Squadron is one, unassuming and quiet, RB Menon;
who proved that there are people who can reach beyond the beaten bureaucratic
mindset, by showing that he has the guts and the grit to take off a HT-2
aircraft and go under the bridge over the Ganges. Even the instructor, who
was ordered to follow him; reportedly, had difficulty to follow him under the
bridge, obviously scared? Was he? Menon, our worthy course mate, repeated the
feat thrice, perhaps to prove that it was not a freak, and that it was a very
calculated and measured feat.
I had the
opportunity, officially ordered, to be his escort until he was cleared from the
Air Force Station, Allahabad. Therefore this reminiscing for permanent record
of achievement of one of our course mates.
collection of parachute from the cadets cloak room and walking towards the HT-2
aircraft, starting of the engine, taking clearance from the Air
Traffic Control Tower(ATC), taxiing to the Take Off point, lining up for
the takeoff, finally a smooth takeoff; it was all so normal that it was too
perfect to be suspected. The adventure started thrilling the early morning
moments of the elements over The Triveni Sangam, only when the aircraft was
seen doing the extraordinary; IE, descending lower than the permitted limits
and going towards bridge. One instructor who saw the unusual, reported to
the ATC; who ordered the instructor to keep following the unauthorized flight.
In the early sixties our aircraft surveillance radars were not that advanced to
trace and track air-crafts. The instructor-aircraft had the responsibility to
follow our course mate, Menon's aircraft and keep reporting its movements. The
ATC had the responsibility to keep track of both of them.
highlight of our Menon's achievement becomes noticeable when we learn that ATC
kept on ordering the instructor-aircraft to follow wherever Menon's aircraft is
heading to, even though towards the bridge. The instructor repeated that Menon
is descending dangerously lower towards the sea-level and proceeding towards
the bridge. The ATC was duty-bound to repeat its instruction to the instructor
to keep following and not to lose track of Menon. We cadets could not contain
our boasting boost when we learnt that the instructor conceded that he would
not be able to go under the bridge even though our Menon, a flight-cadet is
daring to do the seemingly impossible feat.
Captain Philips, the then Commanding Officer (CO) of Air Force Station,
Allahabad; arrived and joined our group (probably, less than 10 minutes, since
it was early hours of the morning) of cadets who were waiting to see how Menon
would approach for landing and of course carry out the landing. Finally, Menon
appeared on the final approach for landing well lined-up with the runway and
was, surprisingly, steadily descending. The very first appearance of the final
approach gave us a feeling of assurance that Menon had the control of the
situation. It was a smooth landing. We all sighed with relief. Menon parked the
aircraft at the appropriate place; got out of the aircraft, did
'after-landing-checks', unlocked the parachute and slung it over his shoulder,
walked towards flight-Cadets rest-room, in front of which we were all standing.
As Menon approached the CO and saluted, Gp Capt Philips ordered Menon to
Clear-out of the station within 24 hours; and ordered me, (who was unwittingly
standing next to the CO), to do escort duties for Menon.
Here, the providential play.
generally a reticent person. He was in 3rd battalion and I was in 2nd in NDA.
It was only in 3rd year we interacted in the Air Force Bay. He was ahead of us
in matters of aviation knowledge.
Menon was put under a sort of arrest and I was to be his escort until he was
cleared from the station, we had to spend time together and inevitably the
discussion of the cause and effect of his action. The cause, though he did not
spell out in as many words; but at the same time, he did not leave me in
unfathomable doubt: that he did not get what he thought that he deserved; ie,
to be one of the first flight cadets to be sent on the 'SOLO' (the first flight
a flight cadet is sent to fly without the instructor). He decided within
himself to show to the world that if his instructor does not recognize his
merit and enable him to go as one of the first to fly solo, then he would
himself show to the world what he can.
am presuming, since the time Menon was ordered by Gp Capt Philips and until the
time Menon walked out of the Air Force Station, Allahabad, that I was perhaps one
of few persons who would have interacted with or shared what he did with me, which
was due to sheer providential play. With emphasis added, I would certainly
welcome if someone corrects me (with authenticity or without!)
how he carried out his plan:
one of us, who was daily transported in a 3 tonner Lorry from Allahabad, where
we were staying tents in cold winter months, to a neighboring satellite
airfield, Phaphamo, when we had to cross the Ganges over a bridge. He said that
he noted the length of the bridge. Hypothetically '1000' feet. He counted the
number of pillars that supported the bridge; say '10' pillars. Then the
distance between the pillars would be: '100' feet. He knew that the span of
HT-2 (wingtip to wingtip) say for our discussion, was '20' feet. So there was
ample clearance, horizontally. Similarly, he calculated vertical clearance.
What was more appreciable was his knowledge that morning hours are turbulent-free
over the sea water as he would have to fly just a few feet above the water. (Pardon
for the indulgence, this is just one point that only the flyers would
appreciate that flying almost touching, but yet flying without touching, is a
subjective experience.) Menon should find a very remarkable place in the
historical records of the exceptional course-mates of 25th NDA, not only for
the point that is mentioned above, about being accurate in flying through the
bridge just above the Ganges waters; but also for several other intelligent
moves he made, (which the reader would appreciate shortly) to make that
Air-traffic Control would not allow any aircraft to move out of parking area
unless everything connected with a flight is not as per laid down rules. Every
aircraft has to take permission for every movement of the aircraft within its
control area. Therefore, Menon used the Code-reference of hie instructor to
move out of the parking area; taxied out (moving out) of parking area, sought
permission to line-up for take-off, and took-off as if there was his
flight-instructor; but he did it all alone.
consequences of his action were very clear in his mind. He was obviously
prepared to take on what is to come. On my inquiry, he revealed that he was not
that well off financially at home. He was aware that he cannot hope for any
good career-oriented job. He said there are a few close associates (did not
spell out their relationship), but they were close enough to be dependable upon
joining him either in designing some fishing boats and such machines as
motor-boats etc, which have a perennial demand in his home-state. Kerala.
His dream project, he expressed, was to design an aircraft with the engine
behind the fuselage, unlike the conventional design. He was full of novel ideas
of designing, and design-drawing too, which he was good at. One could see the
pleasure in his face when those drawings were observed and discussed upon by
others, let alone if appreciated.
technical terms and analysis, to my mind, he could not have been convicted for
any serious sections of law; because he neither caused any damage to any
governmental property, nor any such defiance any specific order that was served
upon him. Having dabbled in law in later part of my life, I am only indulging
in unsolicited, probably one may call it a wishful thinking for a dear
course-mate, about whom I would like to learn the latest, if anybody can.
that I have done a reasonable job of sharing what I should, as I thought I may
have been one of the few who had the opportunity to witness personally what is
not the run of mill stories of adventure; yet so simply done and yet so simply