Saturday, February 21, 2009

When I Flew a Gripen

Thats me there in the Gripen simulator. Pilot Jeppsson explains.

(What I wrote for my newspaper, the original):
Today, on the second day of Aero India 2009, I flew a Gripen combat aircraft. I must say, it was not too tough, the pilot Jonas Jeppsson explains the basics and once in the cockpit, it's just a matter of pulling the joy stick and I make the sky my destination. "Have you done this before?" is the first question. What do I know about flying? Nothing. But once in the SAAB Gripen cockpit simulator at the show, it is only about a few buttons here and a series of mysterious numbers all around showing the position, the altitude, the route, the target, the speed and other incomprehensive things.
The feel of the flight begins just as I step into the cockpit, two steps and a hop in. As I settle down, Jeppsson begins to explain, half of it is beyond me. Then soon, I position the fighter aircraft and it begins to cruise the runway. The speed picks up and somewhere from behind, I hear the roar of an aircraft. Or maybe it was just one of the real ones outside, making a sortie. The pilot releases a lever and I pull up the joy stick and the GS 39 CD flies away, not too straight, but at high speeds nevertheless.
I am soon at 7 G pressure, in a real life scenario, I could have, without the required training, heard my bones virtually crush due to the pressure. On earth, what we see is just one G.
I see the green fields below me, some fudged piece of the land far below. As I get a grip, Jeppsson makes me turn a loop and I am soon flying the wrong side up. And then I begin to cruise over a water body and just then, a wrong move and I am about to crash, a red line shows up. The pilot steadies something and the Gripen is back on track.
Now, this was one of the real combat ones. On the left side is the electronic warfare system, the altitude, speed meters and the route and position in the middle screen and radar details on the other side. Another pilot explains that if there was a target to be followed, that would show on one of the screens too. Triumphantly, I climb out from the cockpit. That wasn't too bad. But then, I did not have to think about the speed and the altitude or make sense of all those strange numbers. Pilot Jeppsson was there for that. And I am sure it is not all fun for him, upon the real skies.
And this is how a real Gripen combat aircraft would look like:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

When I was at Aero India 2009

When I was at Aero India 2009, I had great fun, took the heat, burnt my face, walked for several hours, was desperate for water/food/shelter/ every one hour. I was covering it for my newspaper but above all, I was there on all five days, from Feb 11-15, 2009 to have great fun. The roar of the beauties, the high of the Sukhois and the MiG and the F 18s still resounds. I flew in a Gripen simulator too and was thrilled about it.

Some shots from my little digital camera:

1. My hero, the Sukhoi Su 30 MK I, simply fell in love.

2. The equally good looking MiG

3. And some good looking men and women.

4. A giant in the sky.

5. One of the international journalists. We were all waiting around and I was, as expected bored of taking pictures of friends and the aircraft.

6. The F-18 right? Or is it the F-16?

7. Valentine's Day at the aero show. I loved this couple dressed up in red and huddling under a red umbrella oblivious to the people around them.

8. Another beauty.

9. I love the green against the blue here.

And then there were the flights and the people and the things to see and write....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What We Chase

I wonder what it is that we chase in life. Now I have long given up trying to extract the meaning of life from the vestiges of words I am left with at the end of long, roller coaster days. Life is, take it or bitch about it. Not that I shall ever stop fighting the bits that it throws at me, just when I am settling down. Just that, once in a while, it feels good to pretend I don't care.

Back to that race. Earlier this evening, I began to wonder what it is that we run after. Money, success, that trip to the mall, access to the metro life. There is a lot in the means to the end category. But I continue to wonder, what is or should be the end? Talking with a colleague, one of the few that I also have as a friend, brought it up. Its easiest to tell my brain to shut up and shut away these disturbing thoughts. Today, I thought I would blurt in out through my remaining words and put it out there, hoping, I know its futile, I won't see them again.

There used to be another life I led. One where I was a lot more 'me' than I am today. I read, I wrote, I stared at the night sky, I attempted poetry, I walked along green fields, rocky paths, winding lanes, dark alleys, climbed mountains, breathed in several breaths of pure air, saw the mist float by, listened to loud silence, heard myself think, did a lot of things. I knew the words of several folk songs, I knew how to sing. My songs came from the heart. I could smell the earth and the distant trees and rustling leaves. I used to laugh, a full hearted laugh.

I gave it all up and today I wonder for what? Is it really worth giving up all that you are for something that someone believes would let you keep a tag of "being successful"? Would it be possible to just run and run and keep running against the wind, possibly the only way I can feel free now? Many questions haunt. The clincher is when you are required to think up also of answers or possible alternatives. At the end of the day, to use a cliche, is it worth it?

I don't want to answer.