Sky is the Limit

That’s what Su-30MKI display pilot Wg Cdr Tushar Kadushkar believes

Mihir Paul

Roaring through the skies with a thunderous clap, the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) Su-30MKI display pilots adroitly crafted a dazzling display to delight keen eyes at Aero India 2019. Forming the IAF’s proverbial backbone, the Su-30MKIs showcased their robust manoeuvrability and versatility during a multitude of flypasts in the initial days of the show.

Su-30MKI taking off

The twin-jet multi-role air superiority fighter rightly became a major centre of attention during the flying displays by performing complicated manoeuvres like the Mirror and Missing Man formations among many others.

A conversation with Su-30MKI display pilot Wing Commander Tushar Kadushkar revealed the enthusiasm, passion, and boundless energy that the IAF’s display pilots had for the air show.

“You want people who appreciate the display. People travel long distances to come and watch flypasts during this air show. Here, people especially leave their jobs to come and see the display so that makes it all the more special for me. I was really lucky that I got a chance to fly on the inaugural day,” he said.

It was Wg Cdr Kadushkar’s second time at Aero India and he explained why flying the aircraft is an indescribable experience.

“It has to be experienced first-hand. Even a simulator doesn’t match up to the exhilarating experience of actually flying this aircraft. It’s wonderful,” he said with a smile, adding, “Even with 2,500 kilograms of thrust, it’s totally carefree handling.”

While Wg Cdr Kadushkar has always exclusively flown the Su-30MKI, he expressed his interest in flying any new aircraft that would reach the IAF’s hangars soon. With more than 2,000 flight hours logged in, the Wg Cdr said that he began flying only two years into his service and has been flying the Su-30 platform for almost 14 years.

Discussing the Su-30MKI’s ongoing upgrades and modernisation programmes, Wg Cdr Kadushkar said that the aircraft has undergone constant upgradation over the years.

“Something or the other has always been integrated on the aircraft. All the latest technologies have now been successfully integrated into the aircraft and all the credit goes primarily to the ASTE (Aircraft & Systems Testing Establishment) that has been incorporating weapons and software upgrades for the aircraft,” he said.

With the IAF looking for more multi-role combat aircraft to up its depleting squadron strength, Wg Cdr Kadushkar said that while the new aircraft would definitely have swankier additions that older aircraft like the Su-30MKI wouldn’t have, the Su-30MKI by itself would still be the IAF’s mainstay as it has been and will continue to see future upgradation and modernisation.

Su-30MKI pilot Wg Cdr Tushar Kadushkar at Aero India

Explaining the advantages of the Su-30MKI over other single cockpit aircraft, Wg Cdr Kadushkar said, “The one main advantage of the Su-30 is that it’s a twin cockpit. This allows the front pilot to exclusively focus on flying the aircraft while the rear pilot operates the mission-specific systems. Even with modern single cockpit aircraft, it’s a very difficult task for one pilot to handle both flying and management of systems.”

He further elaborated, “This not only requires a lot of skills but also extensive training. A single pilot has to then manage the time between flying the aircraft and handling the systems whereas the Su-30MKI allows both front and rear pilots to exclusively focus and be proficient in their tasks of flying and managing the systems respectively.”

He clarified that even for displays during the air show, Wg Cdr Kadushkar flew with a rear pilot and that the Su-30MKIs are always flown twin seat.

Discussing the aircraft’s manoeuvrability, Wg Cdr Kadushkar said that the Su-30MKI’s handling is ‘totally carefree’ and that the aircraft has been specially designed for proficient manoeuvring at low speeds.

Wg Cdr Kadushkar also happens to be the IAF’s first Su-30MKI pilot to have successfully landed at the country’s highest altitude ALG in Leh back in 2008.

Describing the experience, he said that it was just chance that he happened to land first. He further explained that he was flying with other Su-30MKIs in the area while practising manoeuvres where he happened to land before the other pilots. According to the Wg Cdr, one doesn’t feel much of a difference in landing at various altitudes.

“You feel a little bit of difference in the performance of the aircraft but it’s not significant,” he said.


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