Water Cannon Salute welcome to Rafale jets at Ambala

The 5 Rafale jets received a welcome at the Ambala airbase of the Indian Air Force in an unprecedented manner as the nation proudly watched. Here's more about the traditional welcome to the new fighter planes. You must have seen images of the new 5 Rafale fighter jets being welcomed at Ambala airbase with a traditional water gun salute. Have you wondered why the two fire rescue trucks spouted a huge arch of water jet over the new arrivals? Well, that 'shower of affection' has its roots in marine history that was later adopted into the aviation industry

As the nation latched on to the blow-by-blow account of the flight of the 5 'birds' - Rafale fighter jets - from France to India, one image of the planes being given a water cannon salute after their landing at Indian Air Force airbase in Ambala has come as a novelty to most people.

What is this tradition of welcoming the arriving planes with a water gun salute? Let us take you into the history of the origin of this tradition that actually has its roots in marine history.

This tradition of welcoming planes as they taxi through two water cannons forming an arch was adopted into aviation by the Salt Lake City International Airport. 

The tradition involves two fire trucks which suddenly start spraying water and create an arch for the plane to taxi through. 

It is actually the mariners who started this tradition. Whenever an ocean liner would get ready for its maiden voyage, fire ships would line up before it and shower it with water to congratulate it. 

That tradition was first adopted by the aviation industry in the early 1990s when retiring pilots of the Delta airlines were given such a water gun or water cannon salute on the arrival of their last flight as captain of the aeroplane at the Salt Lake City International airport. It required some coordination between the airline and the airport as it also involved the ATC and two very powerful aircraft rescue firefighting trucks to taxi to the sides of the arriving plane. 

Now it has become a routine tradition that is brought into play when a new aircraft is commissioned into service or any important milestone that the airline, airport or air defence office may deem fit for the 'shower of affection'.

Some may say that this use of almost 3000 gallons of water is a huge waste. But think of it this way; Firefighting equipment is thankfully rarely required at airports these days as air travel has become safer and safer by the day. Such an exercise also helps the airport to test and use the equipment and ensure that in the event of an unfortunate development, should the need to use these fire rescue trucks ever arrive, they have functional machinery.