Touch the sky with glory

The bottom has fallen out of my world. My marvelous father has gone – and I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

Some protective barrier inside our heads probably stops us from thinking of the inevitability of our own parents’ death. And so, believing that my dad would be out of hospital soon, I didn’t rush to Bangalore at first. When I finally did get there, he was gone and my brother just placed his watch in my hand. The next time I saw him was when he was draped in the Indian flag, unable to see for himself the touching send-off he received from the Indian Air Force.

They tell me that when I was learning the alphabet as a baby, A was for Aeroplane. And when I reached P, that was for Papa, Pushpak Pilot. When I grew up to be a bratty teenager, my dad still very much meant the world to me and was possibly the only one who could get some sense into my head. Oh, the lessons I’ve learned from him and his life. They’re too many to remember consciously, but I know straight off that one of them is that there’s no real option to give up. I tried that more than once, I must admit. I can’t see too great and when I tried to get my college to accept me as a psychology student (I adored psychology), they wouldn’t because they felt I would have too many problems coping with activities that required me to see as others do. I tried and tried and would come back home in despair only to be sent packing back by a dad who told me to tell them there are blind surgeons in this world. Finally, the department realized they’d never seen a more keen and persistent student and let me in. I did have problems, yes, but my dad patiently showed me that there are solutions to everything.

That isn’t the only lesson there for the taking from my dad. He was remarkably “other-oriented”. I don’t think there was ever a time when he was absorbed in himself. Not even when the discomfort of illness took over. I wish it was something I’d internalized but I can never hope to be as selfless as my father was, helping others even as he lay in his hospital bed.

I’m not sure who my dad’s first love was. The Indian Air Force or my mother. I know that one or the other of these two occupied most of his mind space. If he was offered something to eat, he would instantly look around to see what my mother would like to eat. If someone got him to cut a birthday cake he would say sure, that’s all very well but is it eggless because only then can Mohini eat it too. And as for his work, ah, it was never really work but intense involvement, immense fun, and total dedication. My dad was always thinking flying and testing. The Indian Air Force really was his family and having grown up in it, it feels like mine too. I’ll never be able to hear a non civilian aircraft without thinking of him. I’ll never be able to see the Indian Air Force’s colours without longing for just one more flying story from my father…

As I grow older I feel panicked at the thought that I won’t be able to grasp at my memories of my father. What was it he said exactly? Which precise green was his favourite colour? And why green? All the details I was impatient with as a youngster now elude me.

For the rest of my life, I will hear my father’s voice inside my head. Only, I don’t know how to listen to it without crying. Wherever he is now I know that he’ll still be upholding the Air Force’s motto – Touch the Sky with Glory.

Mala Bhargava

A tribute to a Legend

Group Captain Kapil Bhargava

K1 1961 (Kanpur -AMD)

A tribute to a Legend

From Wing Commander I M Chopra a Good Friend.

My friend Kapil is no more. He passed away on December 17, 2014 after a brief illness. It was extremely sad and I felt tremendous grief for someone I knew for over 60 years. I first met Kapil in Jodhpur as a cadet in 1950 when I joined 55th Course. Kapil was in 53rd course. Those days odd number courses were trained at No. 2 AFA Jodhpur and even number courses at No. 1 AFA Ambala. Juniors were in awe of the seniors so interaction was generally confined to salutations. Kapil was commissioned on October 14, 1950. He received the Flying Trophy in his course. Next I met Kapil in England in January 1957 when Bobby Dey (Air Marshal P K Dey) and I arrived to join the 16th Empire Test Pilots Course (ETPS) at Farnborough. Kapil and Sudhakaran had just graduated from the 15th course. Sudhakaran was a brilliant officer and a flier and recipient of the Sword of Honour. Unfortunately his career was cut short due to the fatal crash in Gnat doing hot weather trials at Kanpur. Early 1950 Kapil completed PAI (Pilot Attack Instructors) course in the UK.

Next I met Kapil in Egypt. Kapil was deputed to Factory 36 located at Helwan about 35 kms from Cairo which was making HA300 for the Egyptian Air Force by a design team headed by the great Willy Messerschmitt. I was deputed to Factory 135 located at the same place which was making the E300 engine for HA 300. The team was led by Mr, Brandner (an Austrian) who made several turboprop engines in Russia after WWII. The engine was to be fitted on the right side of the aircraft while leaving the Orpheus on the left. A HF 24 was modified for this purpose and positioned at Helwan for E300 development. This aircraft was designated as HF24 MK1BX. There was also thinking of using this engine for HF24 which needed a more powerful engine and India would have liked Egyptian Air Force to use the aircraft with this engine. I was in Egypt for about 3 years and Kapil longer. I got to know him well there. We discussed almost daily the British /US MIL aircraft and engine specifications used for clearance of aviation systems. I then realized how well he understood fight testing and was incisive in failure analysis. It was an education for me. We made a good team to face the German, Austrian and Swiss engineers. We were very ably assisted by Gp. Capt. C S Naik (later Air Marshal) who led the HAL team maintaining HF24. Kapil mostly handled the HA300 issues. Messerschmitt lived in Spain and occasionally came to Helwan to review the HA300 project. Kapil was forthright with his comments on ignoring the safety aspects. Meserschmitt had to reluctantly agree to make the changes suggested. I think 3 prototypes of HA300 were constructed. At least 2 aircraft were fitted with Orpheus engine as E300 was not ready. I think the first prototype (V1) was flown by Kapil sometime in mid-1984. Kapil flew the first flight with the E300 engine of HA300 I think in 1970. I flew 140 developments the on theMk1BX. Due to goodwill of Kapil, I got to fly 3 flights on HA300 with Orpheus in 1968. As a quid pro quo Kapil flew a few flights on the 1BX. Both the HA300 and E300 projects were closed down due to lack of funds after the Arab- Israeli war of 1967.

When we met in England Mohini wife of Kapil was with him and Mala their first child was a small baby While in Egypt I met Kapil and Mohini socially often and our friendship prospered. We had many get together especially on New Year eve etc. Mohini provided great support and the home was full of brightness and joy. Mala, Kishore and Meena were growing up in the right environment. The children are all now in successful careers. Mala is working for a reputed magazine Business World, Kishore is an adviser in IT with important clients and Meena is in commercial business.

Later on Kapil was Station Commander Jodhpur. He was not promoted to Air Commodore rank and he immediately put in his papers for retirement. He retired on November 16, 1976. I was shocked at this decision of the top brass of IAF. They lost an invaluable “GEM”. His positives outweighed the negatives if any he may have had. He had the courage of his convictions to leave the IAF he had served so well with commitment and boldness. He was disappointed but perhaps not bitter if his demeanor was an indication as such is the hall mark of individual with inner strength. After a stint with commercial firm he joined HAL as Executive Director, Flight Safety. Air Chief Marshal L M Katre who was then Chairman of HAL felt Kapil was the most suitable person to help investigations of accidents cogently and honestly identify responsibility. He was extremely efficient in this job and was praised by all his support staff. I had given up test flying in July 1980 and was then in management. I met Kapil on several occasions in connection with accidents. He retired from HAL. Kapil was recipient of his first Vayu Sena Medal in 1962 for the first flight on the Avro 748 manufactured at BRD, Kanpur.

Kapil was one of his kinds having great skill in test flying backed with knowledge of design requirements. He excelled in his job from a cadet to an Executive and has put the bench mark for flight testing at a great height. The young flight testers who follow will have to exhibit similar commitment to get near it. I am delighted ASTE have conferred the first “Life Time Achievement in Flight Testing” Award.

He settled in Bangalore. I also stayed in Bangalore after retirement from HAL. We used meet on several occasions on official and social functions and I was glad to keep in touch with him. Later on when my mobility became limited, we spoke on phone for 15-20 mts. always at least once a month. It was always a stimulating experience. We discussed aviation, politics, economic policies, and problems facing the country. We agreed on most issues but disagreed on some. Kapil was repository of knowledge and when finding some matter on Internet was not easy I called him. He could easily give advice on computers, mobile phones, IT etc. If he did not have the answer, he had the humility to agree to try and get it. It was my great privilege and honour to have his friendship. I am sorely going to miss him.

In conclusion I would sum up Kapil Bhargava the Legend in six words


May his Soul Rest in Peace

End Of An Era

GP CAPT (RETD) KAPIL BHARGAVA (21 Aug 28-17 Dec 14)

Evening of 18 December, while trying to reach his son Kishore, I rang up Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava’s mobile number by mistake and I heard an all too familiar voice telling me that the subscriber was out of reach! Well, he sure was this time and probably reaching for the stars on a second WW biplane! We had just come back home after performing the last rites for Retd Gp Capt Kapil Bhargava VM who left for his heavenly abode on the 17th of December 2014.

But somehow, as we traced our feet back to our homes a few utterings overheard during the funeral still hung in the air- We have lost an icon! End of an era! The Grand old man of Flight Testing! We probably don’t realize what we have lost today! So loving, so humble! And all of it was so very true as every Tester (as Test pilots and Flight Test Engineers are fondly known as), in town wanted to be there at that moment which actually never felt like mourning but a final celebration of an extraordinary life!

The same day obituary in the Times of India read ‘A brief period of illness ended a remarkable life, lived to the fullest, centred on others and the Indian Air Force’! What a way to capture the lifetime of probably the greatest aviation enthusiast and Tester the country has ever produced! A flyer-writer who was our link to the past, a man who regaled us with the adventures of yore and had always an amazing story to tell! The Devons, the Liberators, the Spitfires and so many other ac of that vintage used to suddenly come to life in his presence!

Although 1994 was the first time I came across Gp Capt Bhargava, I learnt from the old timers that he was a permanent feature as a Guest Lecturer in the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment, the flight test establishment of the IAF, despite his retirement from the Air Force in 1976. No training course was considered really complete without his talk on flight-testing which had all the elements of a Chuck Yeager autobiography! Well he sure was our very own Chuck Yeager! I still remember going back home rather despondent after attending his talk as to why I was subjecting myself to the horrors of the ‘stability and control’ précis whereas this old man could so easily ‘guestimate’ the same by having one distant look at the inadequate size of the fin of the Ajeet trainer prototype taxiing out!


Well, he was indeed good at guessing! We all were aware of his frail health this season as he refused many a social invitation. But this time when he gave me a call from the hospital, he made a specific mention that he had passed my phone number to his family members, just in case they required any sort of help. His premonition or guess was spot-on and the he really did not recover from the high-risk surgery that the doctors had advised!

Gp Capt Bhargava’s father was an ICS officer in the British Raj days and he spent his childhood in Bulandshahar and Gorakhpur. The aviation bug bit him rather early in life and he was commissioned in Oct 1950 in the 53rd Pilots Course. He flew Spitfires and Vampires before attending the Empire Test Pilots School in UK to graduate as one of India’s pioneer test pilots.

In his test flying career with the IAF, besides production test flying, he flew the first flights of the HAL Pushpak, the HS-748 ‘Avro’ and the Messerschmitt HA 300 Fighter designed by Egypt. The first flight of the HS-748 earned him one of the first Vayusena Medals awarded to the IAF – in 1962. He was also the first commandant of ASTE (then A&ATU) and served as the Station Commander of Jodhpur. After his career in the Air Force, he was with the Flight Safety Directorate of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Bangalore before retirement.

Gp Capt Bhargava’s long spell in Egypt were full of interesting challenges as he worked with the Egyptian Air Force to build and test fly their own aircraft. His family still remembers how he would fly aerobatics over the Nile river. But the most exciting was the day when he got airborne in the Messerschmitt prototype for the first time. His colleagues took over the ATC and Cairo television broadcast the flight live. It was an intensely emotional for the Egyptians who thanked him repeatedly and in tears!

Apart from that, the greatest number of his entertaining and spellbinding stories were about the No 7 Squadron. Those were probably the years he enjoyed the most, though it’s difficult to choose. His family, friends and acquaintances always thought of him as being synonymous with the Air force. Every waking moment centered on the Air force, long after he left it formally. In truth, he never did leave! His articles kept gracing the pages of publications like Air Forces Monthly, Air Enthusiast, Flypast, Air International and Indian Aviation for many years. His talks in various seminars were pure gold and were so eagerly awaited. His wonderful wife Mohini would often jokingly accuse him of bigamy as aviation was indeed his first love! He also led his daughters Mala and Meena to become so intensely involved in the whole thrilling world of flying at a young age that they would often listen in to flying exercises being executed through a VHF radio!

A keen blogger, he kept himself abreast with the latest technologies till his very last and would often invite youngsters to help him with his IT stuff. Some people also don’t probably know that he was a wonderful statistician and could conduct a two hours extempore class on statistics any time. But more than any other attribute, his will to help out people in need really stood out. One of my last conversations with him was from his hospital bed just three days before his final goodbye when he was desperately struggling with his own deteriorating health wherein he requested me to help sort out the pension papers for the kin of a long departed colleague!

The Indian aviation world is indeed a lesser place in his absence. We at ASTE are so happy that we were able to confer the first ‘Life Time Achievement in Flight Testing’ award to him just a few months before his demise. No one deserved it more to be the first recipient! ! He was indeed a very happy man, a learned man, a very kind man and a truly great man! They don’t make aviators and gentlemen like him anymore! It is said that a man stops feeling immortal when he loses his parents! Suddenly the world of flight-testing seems mortal and we know why!


AVM Rajeev Hora
Commandant ASTE
21 December 2014

Food is Fun


 By Kabir Bhargava

I am a big foodie and love a variety in my food. But as I am a little thin, I have had a lot of people worried about my eating habits. Most adults get so concerned on my leanness that they start giving ideas of what or how much I should eat. I may have considered eating a waste of time as a toddler but for some years now I have looked forward to a good meal.

The food that pleases me instantly is Italian, Chinese, Mughalai, or what people refer to as junk food. Even from these categories, I prefer the outside version to homemade. My Mother tries to create food that I run after, at home, and that becomes her sure way to get me to be obedient! Home cooking is fine if it goes beyond Dal-Roti-Subzi.

Chicken Lasagna

I enjoy chicken in almost all forms. I love it in Lasagna, Pizza, Pasta and other Italian dishes. In Chinese I like a good red curry with noodles and momos—much like most North Indians. For my school Tiffin, I like all varieties of junk food and mostly non-vegetarian as they get me fame. You would wonder how? Well, I can then trade food for more food from other tiffins. That’s to say, junk food appeals to most of my class mates. So I take Salami sandwiches, jam sandwiches, pizza on toast and any other special dish that was made the previous evening like Pastas or Pitta Pockets.

My idea of a perfect snack is to eat various sorts of munchies with a cool drink while watching TV. I also take pleasure in eating Thai, Lebanese, Mexican or other specialties from various places. I don’t know whether I would like the original dishes from these cuisines but I do like the Indian version. I never refuse a good dinner outside and wonder how is it that I earned the label of a poor eater? I only insist on a variety and to my mind it’s the glamour and presentation that make the food tastier!



Pink Panther 2

Pink Panther 2

By Kabir Bhargava

Pink Panther 2 has generally been recognized as a badly made movie but I found it quite funny. It is a continuation of the previous movie and Steve Martin has to protect the Pink Panther diamond in this one too. Steve Martin with his accent and clumsy ways gave me great laughs. He is the hero and is called Inspector Clouseau. Aishwarya Rai, an Indian actress was surprisingly chosen for an important role in this Hollywood movie. Another comedian whom I like is John Cleese and he is playing the role of Chief Inspector Dreyfus.

There is a thief called The Tornado who has been stealing priceless valuables from museums. Chief Inspector Dreyfus assigns the case to Clouseau who has been giving parking tickets to people outside the museum where the Pink Panther diamond is kept for show. Clouseau was being sent to join the Dream Team of Detectives who were going to solve the crime together. He was reluctant to leave France because he thought the Pink Panther might get stolen. As he was exiting France it was all over the news that the Pink Panther had been stolen. The Dream Team reached France where they were investigating the theft of The Pink Panther. Clouseau goofs around a lot which makes the team members fire him. Sonia (Aishwarya Rai) is there to help the team as she has written a few books on the thefts done by The Tornado previously. The rest of the team finds the missing items and the case was solved. Then Clouseau himself says that the Pink Panther 2 was missing. He was able to catch the thief who turns out to be Sonia. She had a gun and tried to escape, all the detectives went after her and there was a lot of confusion and the result was that she shot the diamond. The diamond shattered into several pieces leaving everyone aghast. Then Clouseau took out the real one and said that the one she shot was the replica. He had secretly switched the two thinking it might get stolen. The movie concludes with Clouseau as the hero of France again.

I love the jokes cracked in the movie and Steve Martin’s behavior with The Pope whose ring was stolen and many such funny moments. It is a movie one should definitely watch. Do share your comments and views.



My School Days

I study at the Shri Ram School Aravali. It is an ICSE board school which is considered to be quite tough. From 7 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon, I am out at school. I can confirm that school life is tough.

I wake up at 7 but get out of bed by 7:15. After getting ready and eating breakfast, I leave for the bus stop at 7:50-55 and it is about a two-minute walk. I reach school by about 8:15. School starts at 8:30. The entire day is dedicated to studying with an hour for breaks and on some days of the week an activity like Games, Drama, Library etc. The school provides lunch that is pathetic. We serve ourselves only half a spoon of each dish and spread it, leaving the effect that we ate a lot. The best part about any day at school is being with friends and talking. I get really tired throughout the day and reach home only by 3. Then I have to do any incomplete work or homework.

It was only a year and a half back that our school got a new Principal. Since then, things have advanced a lot. The current school building would become the senior wing and there is a junior wing coming up on the side. It is said that we would have lockers in corridors instead of desks and there would be subject classrooms. I am looking forward to that day. Also, a Friday- stay- back started. There were groups allotted. I was in the Photography group. The others were Dramatics, Cookery, Horticulture, and Debating. This was only done for the senior school. Since the junior school went back home, there was a shortage of buses. The stay- back was from 2:30 to 3:30. Three buses were combined to one and then we left. So, in a 50- seater bus there are 70 students. After three Fridays, the clubs stopped. Since then we have been having inter- house competitions or matches. On Fridays, I reach home  around 4:30 pm due to badly organized buses. The exam schedule has also changed. The rule of exams from class 6 has been replaced by weekly cycle tests. This was done to avoid too much studying and tension. The cycle tests carry 40 marks and are held every Wednesday. They are quite easy and manageable. But exams start at the finals of class 8 once again. I have given a year of exams and a year of cycle tests. I am giving half a year of cycle tests and then exams since I am in class 8 now.

School has become very strict about student presentation and discipline. There is insistance of tucking in of the shirt and keeping short hair where students prefer the opposite for a casual look.

I am always looking forward to the next weekend or a long break. Last week we had a five- day break. Wednesday was Holi, Tuesday was Eid, Monday was declared a holiday and the weekend before that. Due to the holiday on Monday, the next Saturday was school. So we got only a day’s break which was Sunday. School to me means something dreadful! What did yours mean to you?  

Books – Friends or Foes?

By Kabir Bhargava

Books to me usually mean a job to finish. Especially the long winding ones which put me to sleep. But there are those that I just can’t stop reading and they are mainly the humorous ones. Some that I recall are The Horrible Histories series, The Captain Underpants series and The Rotten school series. The names themselves suggest how funny the books might be. Don’t they?

I have read mystery books of Famous Five and Secret Seven but found them dull. The books I use the most in my life are my school ones. They are very tough and get tougher each year. There have been only a few that have given me pleasure such as Gerald Durrell’s My Family and other Animals that I read as part of my course last year. It made me want to roam about in the sun like Gerald exploring little creatures.

There was a time I was taken in by Roald Dahl’s style of story-telling and Quentin Blake’s illustrations accompanying the text. So I read a lot of Dahl books I could get hold of – Boy, Matilda, BFG, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, the Enormous Crocodile, Esio Trot, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Magic Finger  – impressive, isn’t it – considering that I don’t call myself a book-lover?

I have also read four Harry Potter’s but they were a struggle. The movies are of course more enjoyable.   

I read a lot of car magazines — my favourite being Autocar and Top Gear. I have subscribed to the world’s most popular sports magazine called All Sports. Comics are one of the dearest genres of books to me. I have a vast collection and read some of them repeatedly. Especially, Calvin and Hobbes. I have sixteen Calvin and Hobbes books and have read all at least once and a few two or three times. I also have Asterix and Tintin which too give me big laughs. I have some Marvel action comics and a few Archies which are not worth talking about.

Tell me what you think about the ones you have read. Also any tips on how I should make them friends from foes.


Kabir 2009

By Kabir Bhargava is an open source event that takes place every year. Various long-term users come and give talks during the event about a specific aspect of open source. People attending it are mainly newbies or college students. The venue for the event for a few years has been the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. My father is one of the managers for the event and works very hard to make it a reality. This year it took place on 20-21 February.  

One of my friends, who is an expert on python – a programming language, Senthil came to to give a talk. He was there only for a day and just to give that talk. His topic was about designing a game using python. The idea of designing a game interested me enough to attend the first day of the two-day event. It was a Friday and I had school, and also a Physics test. But I bunked school and went to meet him to understand python since I love playing games. Before the session, he showed me various things that can be done using python. He made a worm game (snake) and also a ship game. He explained the logic of the code that was otherwise a jumble of words to me. Though it was tough for me to memorize the commands for the game, I do remember they were somewhat like this: create spaceship, to move left, left arrow, to move right…then, fire with space, if shot hits another ship, +1points. If an opponent’s bomb hits player, then loud explosion and end. This was the first time I saw and sort of understood any code.  It was also the first time that it occurred to me that action-packed games that I play so often require knowledge of programming and patient checking and rechecking of a series of words and punctuation. I was also convinced about using python!

I found the event quite helpful because if just one session could convince me to know python, then I felt that others would be learning a lot more. For this year of, surprisingly, 15 people from my school faculty had registered. I met my computer teacher who I learnt is an expert at open source applications. Interestingly, he was earlier our guitar teacher.

At the end of the first day, the volunteers and managers partied and ate together—it was clear that to them meant lots of fun along with some work!

Music to my Ears

By Kabir Bhargava

I have gone for three concerts so far. I have found them all quite fun. My heart vibrates a lot with the loud sound and I quite like that feeling. And the fact that one gets to see a celebrity.

The first concert I went for was Shakti 2006. That wasn’t a real concert, because one, we had to sit; two, my heartbeat remained normal through it; and three, the crowd was quiet and didn’t stand up or scream. But the players played quite well.  There was Zakir Hussain, Shankar Pandey and a few more.

 The second concert was by Akon. That was a real concert. It involved standing, screaming, dancing and singing along. Akon is a real celebrity. He is very daring because he would jump into the crowd and even tried to push the barricade down between the paid categories. But the concert was very short for what I had paid for it—Rs.2000. It was only one and a half hours. I also had to miss my school trip for it. Akon sang very well, his band members were really good, especially his DJ. I am glad I went for it.

 The last one I went for was of the “Raghu Dixit Project.” They are a South Indian Band who play Indian rock. One of my father’s friends, Gaurav Vaz is the bass guitarist for the band. Since all their performances are for invitees only, we get invited to the Delhi performances because of him. They are a really energetic band as they jump around a lot. The lead singer, Raghu will ask you to stand and sing along and join him in jumping or singing. The drummer has a lot of power and plays really well; the violinist plays in the background and does a fabulous job too. The lead guitarist, Vijay Joseph would make funny expressions and play fantastically. Although, sometimes I couldn’t tell whether the marvelous guitar sound was by the bass guitarist or the lead guitarist. Then Raghu, the lead singer and acoustic guitarist jumps and moves around a lot. The entire group is animated, and has a lot of fun while providing it to the audience. At the end of the concert we got to meet each band member too. They are all very polite and gentle. They crack jokes and make you laugh a lot. I liked this concert and the band a lot! I’m going to be looking forward to their new releases.

 My connection with music is also through my playing piano. I have just finished grade 3, can play a few familiar pieces and want to learn more. I’d like to be able to play Fur Elise and The Entertainer at the very least. I also listen to music on my mp3. My current favourites are Linkin Park, Eminem, 50 cent, Nirvana, Red Hot Chilly Peppers, Santana, Metallica, 3 doors down, Jonas Brothers and a few more.  I love music. Once, during our summer break, my friends and I formed a band and made a piece of our own but never got to playing it anywhere. I was the singer for the band. Our band was called, “The Wilderness.” Our first song was called “Where I Belong.” For now the band has been lost in the wilderness!

I’d like to end by saying Music’s In My Soul (a song by Jonas Brothers)!