There was a thundering roar as the engine opened the full throttle. The grey bird with a pointed nose, corrected itself, poised skywards, at the short narrow ramp. The green flag was waved down by the attendant on the flight deck as the radio cracked one more time into the eardrum of the pilot ’Clear for takeoff!. The bird tore through, rushing onwards like a falcon and lifted up majestically. There was thunderous applause to commemorate the event. The first Sea Harrier (Vertical/ Short Take Off and Landing) aircraft had taken off leaving a plume of smoke behind. A Chetak helicopter was flying alongside the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant., to attend to any emergency in the event of any eventuality.
Down below at the Steering Wheel, the quarter master was repeating the order of the ‘Officer on the watch’ from the bridge, ‘Starboard 15’ as he turned the wheel to acknowledge the order. The ship was correcting its course for the ‘launch’ to ensure that the maximum lift is generated in aiding the ‘take off’!
After many days of ‘Sea Trials’ to assess the battle readiness of the ship we had sailed to
Goa. The clear blue skies and the distant shoreline were welcoming us. The aircrafts appeared as specks from the distant horizon and within minutes the deafening roar followed. The ‘Sea Harrier’ squadron was arriving on board and they landed on the flight deck, one after another in short intervals, like eagles ready for feast!! I was thrilled like a child to see an aircraft landing like a helicopter on board the ship.
It was one of my proudest moment to have been a part of the team in modernization of the lone aircraft carrier ‘ INS Vikrant.’ It was almost three years of round the clock work at the dockyard to overhaul the ship and make it ready for operating the ‘state of the art’ V/STOL Sea Harrier aircraft. I spent close to five years on the ship at different times and was like my second home, giving me moments of triumph and sometimes like a mother gently rocking me at night putting me to sleep. I had seen the metamorphosis of this’ man of war’ which earlier used to operate the fixed wing aircrafts from the ‘Steam Catapult’ of the second world war vintage. These moments often remind me of my good fortune in having been a part of the history in making!