Two decades after maiden flight, aircraft completes 4,985 test flights and has a flawless safety record

Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS, which was flown for the first time about two decades ago, is on the course of achieving a major milestone.

The aircraft had its maiden flight on January 4, 2001, when Wing Commander Rajiv Kothiyal took the maiden flight from the HAL Airport in Bengaluru. Since then, it has completed 4,985 test flights (as on February 16) and is on the way to making 5,000 successful test flights in the days to come.

As per flight data recorded by the aeronautical development agency (ADA), the nodal agency for the design and development of the TEJAS program, 17 TEJAS aircraft comprising technology demonstrators, prototypes, limited series production variants and naval prototypes have been part of the test flights since 2001.

Apart from the fact that the aircraft is on the threshold of achieving 5,000 test flights another significant part is TEJAS’s flawless flight safety record. There have been no accidents in the TEJAS’s flight record since its first flight 20 years ago, which is considered to be rare in the world of flight testing.

Kota Harinarayana, former project director and widely regarded as the father of the TEJAS, told BM recently that the credit should go to the scientists, engineers and pilots for TEJAS’ impeccable record despite limited support during the initial days of the program.

“Thousands of hours of flying and yet there has not been a single accident which is a record in itself. Credit should go to the scientists, engineers and pilots who have been part of this programme,” he said.

Apart from the test aircraft, there are also TEJAS’s which has been in service with the IAF since 2016 after it got inducted.

Recently, the TEJAS program got a huge shot in the arm as the Cabinet Committee on Security cleared a Rs 48,000 crore deal to HAL for 73 MK-1A versions and 10 MK-1 Trainer TEJAS Aircraft. The contract was formally handed over to HAL during the Aero India show.