15 Nov,1971, Ranchi Airport(Bihar,India),11 am- I was inside the cockpit of a Glider aircraft which belonged to 2 Bihar Air Squadron.After finishing the routine cockpit instrument checks I was sitting on the co-pilot seat waiting for our instructor Squadron Leader Vincent Mendonce who was a fighter pilot in India Air Force.I was suppose to fly with him for the last time before my scheduled SOLO FLIGHT next day which was 16 Nov,1971.
As a young trainee glider pilot,I was very excited and nervous too at the thought of solo flying next day.In the mean time a very well known voice comes behind me and it was Mendy’s (nick name of my instructor) voice,who says-So RB(my nick name),everything ready? I said,yes sir! He gives his thumb approval and I was now set and ready for take-off.And in a few minutes, we were flying over Ranchi Airport at height of approx. 6000 feet.I was suppose to take 3 circuits of the Airport before finally landing our Glider plane.
This was when we were flying 3-4 km away from the Ranchi Airport,we suddenly felt a very turbulent air pocket.Since it all happened in a fraction of second, we got trapped in this turbulent air pocket.Our Glider started fast losing height and dropping like a stone.Before I could decide to take the next action,Our Instructor Mendy took over the control and started trying his best to recover and get out of this stormy air pocket and he succeeded in a few minutes.But, by then we had lost considerable height, and it was not possible for our Glider plane to land at Ranchi Airport.It had also become imperative to land the glider within 2 minutes because of our very low height.Our instructor took immediate decision to land the Glider in a paddy field which was 1.5 km away from the airport.It was a very very risky landing,but we had no option.In a few moment,our Glider landed on the paddy field with a thundering sound. Mendy was finding it very difficult to control Glider’s movement.
Meanwhile, we realized that this paddy field was fast coming to an end and we could not see anything beyond that. This distance was not more than 100 metre or so.Our instructor immediately took a sharp left turn but failed and the left wing of the glider fell and touched the ground.As a result,our Glider started dragging and stopped just 10 ft before the end of the field after which there was a deep slope.
The whole operation lasted for 3-4 minutes and we were virtually going to die, if our Glider did not stop at a distance of 10 feet before the end of the field.
Believe me,this was a moment,when death was just 10 ft from me and there was nothing I could do about it.Since this was a very very scary moment for me,our instructor wanted to postpone my solo flight scheduled for next day.But I managed to take the full control of my fear and told Mendy that I was determined to take my solo flight tomorrow and by grace of God,I became the first trainee Glider pilot to go solo next day,especially, in the background of such a horrible experience a day before.
If you can face and control your fear,you can achieve your goal by all means.
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