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George Fernandes to Rajnath Singh, political leaders who flew IAF combat planes

When Union defence minister Rajnath Singh flew the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas on Thursday, he joined a list of leaders from former presidents to ministers to have undertaken a sortie in an Indian Air Force fighter plane over the years.

Rajnath Singh flew the Tejas from the HAL airport in Bengaluru, becoming the first-ever defence minister to have flown an indigineous fighter jet.

Here is a list of leaders who have flown IAF aircraft in the past:

Nirmala Sitharaman: As defence minister, Nirmala Sitharaman undertook a sortie in Sukhoi-30 MKI in the western sector of Rajasthan on January 17, 2018, becoming the country’s first woman defence minister to wear the pilot’s G-suit and sit in the rear seat behind the pilot.

Kiren Rijiju: Union minister Kiren Rijiju flew a Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft, in May 2016. He took off from Indian Air Force’s Halwara base in Punjab and flew around for about 30 minutes in the supersonic jet, which can reach 56,800 feet and fly at a maximum speed of 2,100 km per hour.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy: The BJP leader flew in Sukhoi-30 MKI on February 19, 2015, during Aero India air show.

Rao Inderjit Singh: As minister of state for defence, the BJP leader flew in a Su-30 from Hindon air base, near Delhi, in August 2015.

Pratibha Patil: Former president Pratibha Patil made history on November 25, 2009, by becoming the first woman head of state to fly in a warplane. She took off in a frontline Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet aircraft from the air force base in Pune at the age of 74 years for a 30-minute sortie at a speed close to the supersonic level.

APJ Abdul Kalam: APJ Abdul Kalam was the first president to undertake 30-minute sortie on the IAF’s Sukhoi-30 MKI, on June 8, 2006. He spent about 40 minuters in the cockpit, flying at supersonic speed.

George Fernandes: As defence minister in the NDA government, George Fernandes flew in SU-30 MKI from Lohegaon Air Force Station on June 22, 2003.