Then Squadron Leader Alagaraja Perumal was on the second run of a photo reconnaissance mission flying very close to the LoC at Batalik on May 21, when a stinger missile hit the jet pipe of his Canberra’s starboard engine. Perumal managed to return to Srinagar after a courageous 45-minute flight. For the first time in IAF history, a missile-hit plane managed a safe return.
He also told me he had the gyros of the stinger missile that hit his engine and apparently it had got stuck in wing after the explosion. He described to me in detail the day he got hit by a missile .After hearing a loud bang, the Canberra started shuddering and realized that he had been hit, this was confirmed by a MiG-29 that was flying CAP nearby. He was given the choice to bail out by the base but chose to stay with the aircraft. After he checked all the vital parameters he found he could control the aircraft. His Instrument panel was out. So guided by a another aircraft he made a safe landing in Srinagar AFB. Baliing out of a Canberra is a tricky business as they don’t have ejection seats .The crew have to strap on their parachutes ie the pilot and navigator and exit via a hatch! I really don’t know how the crew can do that with an out of control aircraft! He would love explaining the reach of the Canberra and that it was a classic that few other aircraft could match.
He was QFI as well and used to tell me how he encouraged his students that if they had the passion they could excel and it was not necessary to be from a well off family to become a pilot in the airforce, He would have been one of the few officers who sent money home to his parents, as generally one is given to believe that a majority of pilots hail from upper middleclass backgrounds.
Fly to your maker my friend and R.I.P.
Photo of officer with Canberra / Bharat-Rakshak