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Group Captain Malliyakel Joseph Augustine Vinoth (21819) remembers the fateful day of March 1, 1995, vividly. A pilot commissioned in the Indian Air Force’s fighter stream in 1992, he was preparing for a routine takeoff in his MiG-21. But what unfolded next was a testament to his nerves of steel and quick thinking.

As the MiG-21 roared down the runway, ready to take off, disaster struck. The aircraft burst into flames, leaving Group Captain Vinoth with a mere 11 seconds to react. In those heart-stopping moments, he knew he had to eject.

With exceptional composure under pressure, Group Captain Vinoth initiated the ejection sequence. He successfully separated from the burning aircraft, sustaining some burn injuries in the process. Despite the ordeal, his training and instincts took over, ensuring his survival.

The incident could have been far worse. Group Captain Vinoth’s timely ejection not only saved his own life but also prevented a catastrophe on the ground. The MiG-21, fully armed, could have exploded in a fiery inferno had he not ejected safely.

The near-death experience did not deter Group Captain Vinoth’s passion for flying. He went on to fly thousands more sorties on the MiG-21, showcasing his unwavering dedication to the Indian Air Force. His courage and exceptional piloting skills continue to be an inspiration to aspiring aviators.