The Telegraph
Tuesday , October 9 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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…but damper for air force

New Delhi, Oct. 8: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is turning cold towards Sachin Tendulkar, disappointed after presenting him as a mascot and commissioning him as an honorary group captain last year.

The IAF had hoped that Tendulkar would take a sortie in one of its frontline Sukhoi 30 Mki aircraft, shoring up the profile of the force and showcasing it as an attractive career choice for the youth. But Tendulkar has not been able to make time so far. Now the IAF is reconsidering the offer.

“No such decision has been taken. Sachin Tendulkar is already an honorary group captain. That is how it is,” Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne said today on the sidelines of Air Force Day ceremonies to mark its 80th anniversary. He was asked when Tendulkar, also an MP, was likely to be flown in the fighter jet.

The offer was also made to India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is an honorary lieutenant colonel in the army. “We have not taken any decision about the future. This is how it is today. They are not going to be flying any aircraft at this point of time as the IAF is very busy,” Browne said.

Dhoni, Kapil Dev and Union minister Sachin Pilot are scheduled to attend the Prime Minister’s Territorial Army Parade in uniform tomorrow. While Kapil is an honorary lieutenant colonel, Pilot was recently inducted as a lieutenant into the territorial army.

Presidents A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil have been flown in G-suits in the fighter jet. The events were little more than photo-ops but that is what the IAF seeks.

The practice of awarding honorary commissions by the armed forces is designed not only to recognise the celebrities but also to tap the celebrity value to give the services an attractive profile.

National badminton champion and Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal was recently flown by the air force in a Kiran Mark II aircraft at the Air Force Academy near Hyderabad.