I was once a 10 yr old... back then we used to go ooh and aah at everything around .. when anything that looked cool and used big words to support it just made us fill up with joy and wonder!! When flash gordon , inspector gadget, mandrake and phantom seemed like the coolest people ever!! we used to dream of things like light speed jet planes, ultra-streamlined cars and bikes that were indestructible and could jump over anything, jet fitted roller skates, gravity defying shoes,, trans-dimensional flights, and argued about things like the coolest transformer, the best g.i.joe, knight rider vs street hawk ..etc etc (i could go on forever...)
Its like living a dream and being in the coolest place ever.. where everything is cool... ( who cares if its even fathomable with todays technology! if it isnt, we'll become the cool scientist-cum-ass-kicking-superhero who just invents a way to do it!!)
I'm sure every hot-blooded guy around has felt the feeling.. its the reason why supercars and superbikes are still bought today by true automobile lovers!! its just to appeal to that little 10 yr old still hiding deep within us! to satisfy that little kid inside, who is proud to own the fastest and most insane looking car/bike around!!
For some lucky people, they actually get to live the dream.. And don't even have to spend a bomb to get it.. Yes, i'm talking about the guys pretty much every kid at some point of time wanted to become when the got big... Air force pilots!! flying around ultra-cool jets, pulling off unimaginable manouvers in air, firing awesome missiles around, and kicking enemy ass and looking cool while doing it!! Every kids dream!!
For little people like us,, we have to settle with the smaller pleasures of life... just being able to be close to one of these,, is a once in a lifetime experience!
Dateline- sometime after 1987
Place - Undisclosed location
I went to my air force cousins/uncles place (we are very close, but its a long confusing relationship.. i don't exactly know which one he is) .. He's a pilot (previously a fighter pilot), and he got some special permission, allowed only for family members.. and took me down to the air force base!
There are a few sounds that get me as fired up as the sound of a jet engine firing up! (no pun intended).. So, from this point, till the end of the post (and maybe the next day too!) there was an unstoppable ear to ear smile across my face!
We were standing beside the runway, looking at fighters, and support jets taking off one after another for their practice sessions!
He showed us in the far off distance the "idli plane". This was a plane with a huge idli on top of it.. This apparently, was an AWACS. This is a flying radar, that once in air, can apparently detect any plane taking off anywhere in neighbouring countries.. Talk about cooooooooooool !!!
Our destination was the Ilyushin.. The IL-78 (Ilyushin 78).. This is an aerial refuelling plane, capable of refueling fighters, increasing their range almost 4-5 times!!! Talk about awesome! This is done by a pipe being let out ,, onto which the fighers hook on to, and take in fuel..
When we reached the parking lot (don't know what to call it!),, there was one that was about to leave.. The one we would see was behind it.. My impatience to go in lead to this conversation...
Me: "Why don't we go from behind, and look at the next plane"
Uncle: "This is the biggest plane around here. Its as big as a 747. Each engine generates around 12000 Kg's of thrust. So thats a total of around 50,000 kg's of thrust. If i even drive my car from behind it, it'll topple over and maybe fly away.."
Me(Thinking): coooooooooooooooooooooooooooooool !!!
Uncle: "And We have these guys with us!" (referring to my 2-6 yr old cousins who came along)
Once the way was clear, we proceeded to inspect the IL at close range! The size dawned upon us as we got closer... This thing was HUGE!! The tyres were almost as tall as me, and they seemed miniscule compared to the size of the aircraft! This was one huge 210 tonne flying monster!! We walked in, to the cockpit, to approach the seats of the pilot, co-pilot, and 3 engineers.. There were about 5-600 switches and dials and meters in there distributed over the panels.. All the people in there, Each guy specializing in the panel where he/she sat... I sat in the pilots seat, and moved around the joystick a bit.. asked the meaning of many of the levers, sticks, buttons etc... The buttons/switches/toggles are colour coded. Red:Emergency use only/ very important controls.. Like i said, there were little kids with us,, and the moment they saw the red buttons, they left everything else and pressed all the red buttons!!!!!! Seeing the eminent danger of letting kids near the controls of the monster,, we left...
This was followed by the bloated bottom front of the plane, which housed another radar.. What is scarier, is that you can look down from there and see the ground.. Imagine a guy landing at 250km an hr,, seeing the floor a few feet away!!
This was followed by an external tour of the plane, and how many of the things work... including the refueling mechanism, and the paradrome used for it, and the machines behind it, the controller,, etc etc..
All in all,, it was every little boy's dream come true!!!
I leave you with an exhibition clipping of refuelling done over delhi...
My salutations to the great people of the IAF,, for keeping us safe, and looking so cool while doing it!!
and some photos