‘Gajraj’ landing gets rumour mills abuzz in city

Report by: 
ROOPA LALL
Port Blair
15 Jun 2017

An unusual occurrence caught the attention of the city residents on Thursday. Hundreds of by-standers were seen assembled along the road after India’s largest transport aircraft, Ilyushin, or the IL-76, landed at the airport here from the opposite direction. Rumor mills immediately started working overtime floating myriad theories.
This Correspondent noticed many amazed and clicking photographs after noticing the mighty jet landing from the Joggers Park direction and later reversing back to the parking bay. “The Civil Aviation Ministry has issued directions to prove that aircrafts can land at the Port Blair airport from both directions. Only after this condition is fulfilled, the Ministry will accord sanction for operation of international aircrafts,” said one to his friends. Some claimed that the short landing has something to do with the durability of the runway while some others termed it a secret military exercise.
Sources, however, confirmed that the landing of IL-76 in such fashion was because of the prevailing direction of wind. An official of the airport, on conditions of anonymity said, “There are several factors that decide the direction of landing on a runway and prevailing winds are one of them. Based on the direction of the wind, the aircraft was directed to land from the opposite direction. Moreover, the aircraft reversed back to the parking bay due to lack of sufficient space at the runway for such massive aircraft,” said the source adding that the IAF aircraft carried out a couple of sorties since last night for transport of defence personnel and materials between Port Blair and Car Nicobar.
Illyushin Il-76 is known as the Gajraj (King Elephant) in the IAF and forms the strategic/heavy transport fleet. An estimated 28 aircraft are in service in two squadrons. Deliveries to the IAF began in 1985 and they were used in the Maldives in 1987 and in Sri Lanka during 1987-1990 to great effect. Mighty Jets, as the IAF's only IL-76 squadron is called, is one of the air force's oldest transport squadrons and completed its 56th anniversary this year. During the 1971 war, the unit, in a rare feat for a transport squadron, carried out successful bombing missions against the enemy and was bestowed 'Battle Honours' for it.