SOURCE: TUSHKAR SHIRODKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
One of the most anticipated and upcoming milestones in India’s LCA-Tejas program will include certification of Full Operational Capability (FOC) for the aircraft after its first flight nearly 18 years ago. Long-delayed and long pending FOC Certification is just a few flights away for the program and till now it had an accident free developmental flight program which deserves great appreciation for the entire team which has been closely working with the program since its day if inception.
Its quite common, while in the development of contemporary fighter jet in recent years,even by advanced countries, aircraft have been lost while going through developmental trials and it’s a rare feat that India’s LCA-Tejas program which will soon achieve final Full Operational Capability certification, never ever faced any crash or major accidents in its entire developmental cycle which is quite impressive since it was only for the second time India was developing a fighter jet on its own in last 70 years of its existence.
LCA-Tejas program did have close calls and misses and I can certainly recollect one of the TD (Technological Demonstrator) aircraft while carrying out Taxi trials had a small fire in the cockpit but that was long before the first flight of the aircraft was carried out and also about a tire burst after landing which nearly pushed aircraft to go out of runway but somehow pilot managed to keep it on runway.
Due to delays in the program and due to Import friendly Media and Airforce. Developers of LCA-Tejas were cautious from the very start and they never left anything to chances when the program was in its infancy to avoid crash or major accidents which could have certainly seen the closure of the program due to continues bad press it was receiving locally and Internationally.
These Cautionary tactics did cost the program a lot of delays initially since earlier prototypes and TD aircraft were nearly stripped down after each flight to check for issues which could cause a crash. Developmental flights to were on the lower side in the first few years due to intensive checking routine which was implemented and the situation only improved when more aircraft joined the developmental trials in later years.