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Pilot killed in IAF MiG crash, Mukherjee expresses condolences


Srinagar/New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) An Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot was killed Tuesday when his MiG-21 fighter plane crashed in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district, officials said. The co-pilot was seriously injured.

 Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, who took charge earlier in the day, said he was "extremely sorry" to learn about the accident and called it a "matter of great concern" while President Pranab Mukherjee also expressed his condolences.

A statement from the air force said the MiG-21 crashed about 10 km short of the Awantipur air base at around 10.45 a.m. "The pilot from Srinagar was on a routine training sortie," the statement said.

Local officials said the pilot’s body had been recovered. A police officer identified him as Squadron Leader Raghu Bansi. Officials said the body was airlifted to the IAF field station, while the debris of the aircraft was removed by IAF personnel.

The co-pilot of the fighter jet suffered serious injuries.

President Pranab Mukherjee sent a condolence message to Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, saying he was saddened to learn about the tragic crash.

"I am sure that all necessary help and assistance is being provided to the next of kin of the deceased pilot and medical aid is also being provided to the injured co-pilot," the president said.

He prayed for peace of the departed soul and speedy recovery of the injured co-pilot.

Jaitley said in New Delhi: "It is a matter of great concern. My heart goes out to the pilot who lost his life."

The air force has ordered a court of inquiry.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, expressing grief at the accident, said the new central government needed to address the issue of defence procurement at the earliest.

"Not entirely disconnected from today’s crash the new government needs to sort (out) defence procurement issue for Navy, Air Force & Army ASAP," Abdullah tweeted.

He also expressed grief over the death of the pilot and condoled his family, friends and colleagues.

The Russian-made MiG 21 (Bis) of the type that crashed Tuesday was the IAF’s first supersonic fighter ans completed 50 years in service April 2013.

Despite several accidents in past, the MiG-21 is likely to remain operational in its upgraded version until 2019 – two years later than they were originally scheduled to be decommissioned.

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