53rd Pilots Instruction Course

53rd Pilots Instruction Course

  Commencement : 19th July 1948
  Commissioned : 14th October 1950
  Trained at : Initial Training Wing, Coimbatore
No.2 Air Force Academy, Jodhpur 
Conversion Training Unit, Ambala
Conversion & Training Sqn, Agra
  Intake : 89 Flight Cadets
  Output :
Pilot Wings 39+1 (25 to fighters, 14+1 to Transports)
Navigation 14
Other Branches 5 (3 ATC, 1 PTI, 1 A&SD)
Fatalities during Training 4
Withdrawn 26
  Commission Numbers : 3937 GD(P) to 3975 GD(P)  (Listing) , 4003 GD(P)

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Jodhpur, October 1950.  53rd Pilots Course. 39 cadets passed out as pilots on October 14, 1950.  The seated row and the first row standing after that are the instructors. Seated in the center is the Stn Cdr Gp Capt R Rajaram with Wg Cdr SA Hussain (Chief Instructor) to his left and Sqn Ldr GBS Bhullar (Chief Flying Instructor) to his right.

The newly commissioned officers are standing  in the last two rows. Plt Offrs Ayappan  Sudhakaran who won the Sword of Honour and Kapil Bhargava with the Flying and Ground Trophies are seated on the ground right in front. Six newly commissioned pilot officers are missing from this photo.

Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava writes:

No. 53 Pilots Instruction Course began with 89 cadets when we joined Initial Training Wing at Coimbatore, the last pilots’ course to do so, on 19th July 1948. Even the arrival in Coimbatore from the North was full of problems. With the Hyderabad Police Action in full flow, trains were routed by roundabout routes. The journey from Delhi to Coimbatore took more than three days. One cadet Shyam Singh, a big-made and very fit person, soon decided to switch to being a physical training instructor instead of a pilot. That left us with 88 who were held up in Coimbatore for one year instead of the planned six months as the Harvards had gone off to Kashmir and training had come to a full stop. Earlier, because of the interruption in training, course numbers 49 and 50 got combined into one and 51 and 52 into another single course from the next pair.

In October 1948, 53 PIC went to Wellington where we had exercises with the army. One of these involved us flight cadets capturing a hilltop with blank bullets loaded in our 303 rifles. One person got injured with the little cardboard cap of the bullet after it was fired, though not seriously. The other highlight was battle inoculation where we had to run an obstacle course where bombs (large crackers) and smoke bombs, etc were let off as you jumped ditches, climbed walls, used rope ladders, and swung across a deep trench with a Tarzan act on a single rope strung across it. The last part of it was to crawl through a tunnel made of barbed wire while live rounds were being fired from a Bren light machine gun just above the top of the wires. One cadet took ages since he had a rather large posterior, which was in the danger of being punctured. He eventually became a navigator.

During our trip to Wellington, we visited Ooty Lake. That is our first group photograph with all of us in blues escorted by our Station Commander Wg Cdr Ronen Sen, his wife and a friend. I have never counted the cadets in the picture but to the best of my memory no one had been left out.


Ooty lake, Wellington.

Cadets of the  53rd Pilots Course with the then AOC Training Group - Air Commodore RHD Singh (standing center in suit) and the  Station Commander - Wg Cdr R Sen (in Suit to the right of the photo) .

We moved to Jodhpur in August 1949 to begin flying training on Tigermoths. We lost two cadets during this phase to flying accidents, almost certainly due to unauthorised low flying. The second group photograph shows most of the course before flying training started. Again I have not counted the numbers, but perhaps all of us who reported to Jodhpur are present in it. My course mate who owns the picture had marked who had been grounded and who had died on the picture itself. Then there is a picture of a flight still training on Tigermoths.

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Jodhpur, Sept 1949.  53rd Pilots Course. This photograph is marked by pen to denote who died in the course of duty and those who did not complete the course.

C Flight, 53 PIC, showing 28 of the cadets then undergoing training on the Tigermoths. --

The reduced number of cadets switched to Harvards, We lost one cadet at night. Eventually 39 cadets passed out as pilots on October 14, 1950. The first service number 3937 was that of the Sword of Honour winner A Sudhakaran and the last was 3975 (TS Paine) . Only one pilot from 53 PIC became an Air Marshal (BS Sikand). One other pilot became an Air Vice Marshal, which rank was taken away following an alleged serious error of judgment by him. The group photograph (First photo on the page)  taken after our passing out shows Sudhakaran who won the Sword of Honour and I with the Flying and Ground Trophies right in front. Six newly commissioned pilot officers were missing from this group for reasons which I have never been able to determine.

Two cadets were held back for a while. Of these, one cadet in his very next flight decided to take revenge by diving the Harvard straight into the ground killing himself and the instructor responsible for delaying his commissioning. The other held back cadet, the 40th to qualify as a pilot had the service number 4003 and was commissioned on December 23, 1950. Nine cadets qualified as navigators, two of them rising to the rank of Air Marshal and one to Air Vice Marshal. Three cadets qualified as ATC officers. Thus 53 out of initial 89 cadets got to serve in the IAF. However, a spate of accidents within the first year of service caused a number of deaths of young pilots from the course.

Click to Enlarge Newly commissioned officers of the 53 PIC, undergoing Spitfire XVIII conversion training at Ambala.  A Sudhakaran is sitting on the prop spinner. Kapil Bhargava is standing on the aircraft in the center. Plt Offr Iype Kovoor of the joint 51-52PIC is standing in flying overalls.

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