Tambaram Air Force Station on the outskirts of Chennai houses the Flying Instructor’s School (FIS). The FIS was originally raised in the north in Ambala in 1948 and moved to its current location in 1954. Till then Chennai (Then Madras) saw aircraft only at St Thomas Mount, from where a flight of Blenheims and Wapitis of the erst while Coastal Defence Flights (CDF) used to fly missions during World War Two.
Initially equipped with Harvards, the FIS started using HT-2s which it used till 1989 in thier Lycoming – Reengined avatar. Currently the FIS uses HPT-32s and HJT-16 Kirans.
|Folland Gnat IE-1078 seen at Tambaram AFS in artificial Camouflage scheme. Note the two hard points and droptanks. Pic Courtesy : B Harry|
Atleast two warbirds are in existence at FIS. One of them is a HAL Assembled Folland Gnat IE-1078. This aircraft is a veteran of the 1965 India Pakistan war and was part of No.23 Squadron based at Pathankot. Though it is not confirmed, it is assumed that this aircraft took part in a some aircombats with F-86 Sabres during that time. One of the period photographs from that era show a Pilot Scramble at Pathankot, this picture is quite popular and has been reproduced in many publications.
IE-1078 however today is painted in a garish yellow-brown-green Desert style camouflage scheme that was never seen on Gnats. The aircraft has been seen on display on many ‘Open House’ days held at Tambaram. The Gnat has been painted with the label ‘Ajeet’ on both sides of the nose. Though it is quite clear that it has only two hardpoints under the wings and is most likely a Gnat that was never upgraded to Ajeet Standard.
A Word of caution here, it has been noted that sometimes the IAF changes serial numbers on warbirds for historical context. The only way to confirm that IE-1078 is indeed the same aircraft is to verify its original Folland Gnat construction number.