Flying a fighter plane is serious business. While flying at great speeds, danger is always around the corner.
Even in routine missions. One such situation was faced by Squadron Leader Rijul Sharma of the Indian Air Force, when he was piloting his Mig 29. Flying at an altitude of 10 km he was tasked with undertaking a supersonic speed test. Flying 110 km away from his air base, at speeds of 1,200 – 1,300 kph, the unthinkable happened. The canopy perspex of this plane shattered, hitting him in the shoulder and injuring him. The shattered canopy led to rapid decompression in the cockpit and exposing him to temperatures of -28 degrees.
Exposure to such temperatures can lead to decompression sickness and unconsciousness in no time. Sqn Ldr Rijul Sharma then had only seconds to react if he was to save his life. But instead of ejecting from the stricken plane, he decided to do land the thing if it was the last thing he ever did. He instinctively brought the plane down to an altitude of 3 km and gained control of the aircraft by reducing his speed. But with excessive wind noise and not being able to properly see his instruments, he displayed exemplary courage and showed the presence of mind by avoiding flying near populated areas and oil installations. With so much happening in the cockpit, he still managed to bring the multi-million dollar plane back safely while preventing a catastrophe on the ground. For displaying courage and disregarding his own safety, Sqn Ldr Rijul Sharma was awarded the Vayu Sena Medal for Gallantry today.