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Indian Air Force
3 Sqdn
Leh AFB

MiG-21Bis

 

25th September 1992

Indian Air Force
Flight Lieutenant Ranjit Damle

Flt Lt. Ranjit Damle was my younger brother, also my classmate from school (Sanjay Kunte – Military transport helicopter pilot).

I was at Leh air base at the time of the accident along with Ranjit’s and my common friends from the Air Force.

According to eye witness reports from people on ground and at ATC, there were instructions relayed to pilot(s) to fly lower than the stipulated altitude so that press photographers present may get a “better appreciation” of a simulated low level strike run.

Ranjit was flying in “wing man” position, after his leader and Ranjit had carried out their first run. The press had been unable to get good coverage so they asked the two pilots to perfoprm a second run, this time though, at lower altitude.

Ranjit’s leader refused to fly lower.  Ranjit was the last one to make the run at low level.
 



photo : Damle family        

Flight  Lieutenant Ranjit Damle IAF

 

In the rarefied atmosphere Ranjit’s aircraft began sliding and  he put the aircraft into a tight turn due to lower altitude and narrow approach to the airfield.

Aware of the developing situation he applied power to stabilise the aircraft, but the plane was sluggish and did not climb enough and hit the mountain top. Ranjit ejected on impact but being outside the seat's performance envelope  his chute did not have enough time to deploy. His body hit the hill slope with the chute partially deployed.

A rescue helicopter was sent out on search and rescue but could not land a person as the hill side was very steep. They radioed back that pilot showed slight movement, thereafter  a rescue team left on foot. When they reached Ranjit, he was declared dead. He was 25 years of age.

 My parents, sister and I visited the actual crash site the 2 days after the accident and talked to his/our friends who gave us their views on this accident.

 There is also a short video clip of this accident that was aired by BBC and by Indian TV news channel “Aaj Tak” showing the actual impact and resulting explosion. I’ve been trying to get hold of this film for some time now without success, but will not give up yet.

 Jiten Damle May 2007 

 

  Some extracts and photos used in this Biography  were  provided thanks to the generosity of Jiten Damle and the family of  Flt Lt. Ranjit Damle