Surya Kiran, Indian Airforce

Surya Kiran team shines in blazing glory

They are masters in aerial choreography. And at Aero India-2001, they emerged as crowd-dazzlers. They are the acrobatic team of the Indian Air Force (IAF) -- Surya Kiran or Rays of Sun.

According to Wing Cdr Amit Tiwari, every aspect of flying is worked out on paper which is later transformed to computer graphics. "Once the Air headquarters clears our plan, we begin flying practice. Each flying profile is for one year and then we get down to new ideas. We have a tenure of three years with Surya Kiran and then we take up new postings.''

There are 14 team members, of which only nine fly. There are three aircraft with two pilots and the remaining six are single-seaters.

According to him, every moment in air is precious as decisions have to be taken in a split second. As the leader, he gives the call to his members to change formations, be it the Diamond or Shockwave.

"Until the last person responds, we will not make any changes in the flying patter," he said.

Unforgettable moment? "During a display at Chennai above Marina Beach, a huge bird came opposite the aircraft. For a moment, I thought it would crash my screen. By God's grace, the bird changed course,'' Amit recalled.

The Formation Aerobatics Team was formed in 1982 when the IAF was celebrating its Golden Jubilee, and was called the Thunderbolts, flying the Hunter. The Hunters were eventually replaced with the Kiran MK-IIs.

The Thunderbolts were rechristened Surya Kiran in 1996 as a six-aircraft team and the present one comprises nine aircraft.

The Surya Kirans are based at Air Force Station Bidar, which looks after their technical, administrative and logistic aspects, under the guidance of Air Cmde P.V. Naik. The team includes a group of skilled technicians who ensure that all the metallic birds are ready to fly in all respects of the display. This is done by the team technical officer and his gang.

The team members are: Air Cmde P.V. Naik, Wg Cdr Amit Tiwari, Sqn Ldr Vimal Bhatt, Sqn Ldr Sandeep Dang, Sqn Ldr Sandeep Bansal, Sqn Ldr T. Manesh Gopal, Sqn Ldr Akshya Subbaramu, Sqn Ldr J.T. Kurien, Sqn Ldr Anil Gulrajani, Sqn Ldr Vikram Rawat, Sqn Ldr Tanmay Sharma, Sqn Ldr Rajdeep Gill, Sqn Ldr Sanjay Khajuria, Sqn Ldr Prabhat Kumar and Flt Lt Vikas Wahi.