In April 1973,GP Capt. Tejwant Singh was posted to a squadron at Chandigarh. One evening , as a part of a wartime simulation two of them, each flying a MiG-21 headed towards a valley in Himalayan foothills, where Sutlej flows into the Punjab plains. Captain Singh was the leader of the formation with Flt. Lt. T. M. Asthana ,flying abreast at 500 yards to his left. They were all set to attack the ‘enemy’.
At the height of 300 meters above the ground, heading north at the speed of 800 kilometers an hour, he turned to check the rear of Asthana’s MiG-21 for the ‘enemy-aircraft’ (an air-combat strategy). Turning around he spotted a vulture in front of him, barely 15 meters away, too close to avoid collision at that speed.
The last thing he remembered before losing consciousness was the vulture turning its long neck as if to see what was behind it. When he came to, he was in a shallow dive, barely 150 meters above ground, flying at a speed of around 900 kilometers an hour, barely a second away from hitting the ground. He hurriedly took control of the craft and levelled off. Astonishingly now he was facing south- somehow the craft has turned around. But this was not his only problem.
He had lost his vision in the right eye and was not sure if it was still in the socket! The blast of air, viciously tearing through the half shattered front windshield left him in acute pain. With minimal vision in his left eye he could only figure out the the ground features from a lower height. His helmet visor was shattered as well as his oxygen mask dangled over his chest. He was shocked to find blood all over his chest. He knew he needed medical attention but ejecting over the countryside was out of question. Since, the MiG-21 was otherwise ‘flying-fit’, he decided to head back to Chandigarh by following the familiar ground features.
After two failed attempts at landing, the aircraft bounced off the runway almost 50 feet into the air before it finally touched down.
After stopping at the end of the runway, he removed clotted blood and feathers from the mouthpiece-microphone and called the tower for medical aid.
He got 36 stitches around his right eye but regained his sight gradually. By the beginning of 1975, he was able to fly MiG-21s one again. In April 1974, he was awarded the Shaurya Chakra by President V. V. Giri, for his effort in saving a very valuable aircraft at great risk to himself . Its cost was Rs. 1.5 crore in 1973.
A soldier is someone who fights as the part of army, but there are heroes who fight without being at war.
A fighter can always recover, and you never know what they are going to come back with.