New Delhi, May 22 (UNI) Even as the senior Commanders of the Indian Air Force were meeting here in a conclave reviewing their past performance and planning for the future, a MiG-21 fighter crashed in Jammu&Kashmir today, killing the pilot and eroding further the IAF flight safety record.
The aircraft had taken off from the Udhampur Air Base on ''a routine training sortie'' at around 1040 hrs. It was ostensibly still carrying out its mission objective when around 1130 hrs it lost contact with the Air Traffic Control at the Air Base, IAF Spokesperson Wing Commander Sanjeev Sharma here said.
The fighter was believed to have crashed in the Basantgarh area of the Udhampur district and an intensive search -- both ground-based and from the air -- had been launched with the assistance of Army troops, he added.
The body of the pilot, Squadron Leader P G Reddy, had been found and had been brought to the base.
However, reports from Jammu said that the wreckage was found in Bhaderwah area of Doda district.
Significantly, of the 793 MiG-21s progressively inducted in the IAF since 1963, a total of 330 have been lost in accidents.
But with the IAF launching a concerted flight safety strategy on the four pillars of ''technology, capability, training and environment'', the rate was brought down to 0.44 accidents per 10,000 hours of flying during 2005-06, the lowest recorded since 1971-72.
While inaugurating a three-day Air Force Commanders' Conference here yesterday, Defence Minister AK Antony had complimented the IAF for its ''excellent flight safety record'' during the last financial year. But on a cautionary note, he had also stressed upon the need for training and strict adherence to Standard Operating Procedures relating to flight safety.