Pune, April 10: Air Chief Marshal Hrushikesh Moolgavkar (Retd), the first Indian to touch supersonic speeds, passed away in Pune last night.
Moolgavkar' historic supersonic flight was on a Mystere-11 bomber in France in 1951.
Indian Air Force (IAF) said that Moolgavkar had been admitted to the Command Hospital in Pune since March 29. He was 95. He is survived by a son and a daughter.
Moolgavkar was the IAF Chief from 1976 to 1978 and retired after serving the nation for 38 years.
A memorable fly-past in 1947
The ace pilot had the rare distinction of leading the fly-past on maiden Independence Day celebrations in 1947. As a Squadron Leader then, Moolgavkar led a formation of Tempest, with thousands waving at his team -- just hours after India won Independence.
According to aviation historian Jagan Pillarisetti, the former IAF Chief was a WW-2 (Burma) veteran and a recipient of Maha Vir Chakra (1948).
"His competence as an ace pilot manifested as he flew 67 types of aircraft during his long span in the IAF. He also led the fly-past team on January 26, 1951, the Republic Day," an IAF spokesperson said.
Commissioned into the Royal Indian Air Force in November 1940, he fought the Japanese Army in 1941.
He was the Captain of the first flight of four Ouragan fighters flown to India from France. He was also among the first to fly the MiG fighter in 1954 and the Gnat in 1954.
Guided IAF into the jet age
Speaking to OneIndia from Delhi, former IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy (Retd) said that Moolgavkar was a very demanding person.
"He was an outstanding professional and a non-nonsense man. He gave major directions to the IAF when it was getting on to the jet age. He had a great sense of humour as well," Krishnaswamy said.
IAF veteran and former Commandant of Aircraft System and Testing Establishment, Bengaluru, Air Vice Marshal Ajit Lamba (Retd) told OneIndia that Moolgavkar will be always remembered for his bold decisions.
"He lived a full life," Lamba said.
Never stopped flying even as the IAF Chief
The IAF says that Moolgavkar always maintained his flying status even after he took over as the Chief.
"As the CAS, he would often go on flights on MiG-21s, which also included the first flight of HAL0built MiG-21M [C-1531]. He was responsible for bringing the IAF's accident rate under control," a spokesperson said.
The Funeral Parade is being planned to be held tomorrow (April 11) at Shakti Dham, Golibar Maidan, Pune. A memorial service will also be held at the Officers' Mess, Air Force Station, Pune.