New Delhi, Oct. 5: The chief of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne, today publicly praised “my boys” for refusing to fly Rahul Gandhi through bad weather and for reporting a “tip” of Rs 1 lakh by the visiting Chinese defence minister.
The pilots of an Mi-17 helicopter who had flown Rahul Gandhi to Kokrajhar in Assam on September 11 refused to fly him back to Guwahati in the evening after low clouds and heavy rain made flying dangerous. The weather was also reported to be bad at the alternative station —Hashimara in north Bengal.
Rahul Gandhi had to drive to Guwahati instead.
The IAF had backed its soldiers immediately afterwards. “Based on the prevailing weather and approaching sunset, the pilot, taking the safety of the VIP as being paramount, arrived at the decision that it was unsafe to undertake the flight,” an IAF spokesperson had said.
Today, the air chief publicly patted the pilots and crew. “They took a professional decision,” he said. “In this instance the safety of the VIP, the aircrew and the aircraft was prioritised.”
Earlier in September, pilots of the IAF’s VIP Embraer aircraft flew Chinese defence minister Liang Guanglie and his delegation from Mumbai to New Delhi. At the VIP terminal in Delhi, they were gifted two white envelopes containing Rs 1 lakh in cash.
The pilots of the Headquarters Communication (VIP) Squadron reported the matter to higher headquarters. Asked if he was amused or entertained by the “tip”, Browne said: “First of all, I was proud of my boys for reporting it. The toshakhana (government treasury) is now richer with a few thousand rupees.” The pilots deposited the “gifts” with the government.