IAF fighter jet lands on Yamuna Expressway: Landing on highways can be dangerous too

Landing a plane of any size or grade on a road is difficult task, let alone a fighter jet. Yes, there are dedicated 'highway strips' (highway or motorway that is specially built to allow landing of military aircraft) in many parts of the world, mostly built during the World War II or the Cold War, but such a feat is unheard of in India.

 IAF fighter jet lands on Yamuna Expressway: Landing on highways can be dangerous too

Mirage 2000 fighter jet lands on Yamuna Expressway in trial exercise. IBN

Today, in a first, The Indian Air Force laded a Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft on the Yamuna Expressway near Mathura as part of trials to use national highways for emergency landing.

The test was a success, the fighter jet soared down the highway and smoothly landed before taking off again, and the site can be used in the future for emergency landings if a craft is unable to make it to the airfield runway.

Although in case of an emergency it might seem easy and even reasonable to land an aircraft on a highway, perhaps because of its resemblance with a real runway, it is anything but. Many other factors (apart from the condition of the road) needs to be considered before landing, like the housing structures, trees, electricity poles, wiring, etc.

As this Slate article points out, such attempts have not been entirely successful in the past. In 1971 a Pan International Airline BAC-111 flying from Hamburg, Germany, to Spain made a forced landing on the Kiel-Hamburg autobahn, but 22 passengers were killed when, as one report described it, "the front fuselage section was cut off as a result of an impact with a road bridge."

In the second case, in 1977 a storm-damaged Southern Airways DC-9-31 made an emergency landing on a section of rural highway in Georgia. The plane struck a variety of ground obstacles: first trees, then utility poles, then an embankment. A house and a gas station were destroyed. Sixty-three people on the plane and nine on the ground were killed. There were 22 survivors, reports the New York Times.

There are questions as - in case of an emergency, will a craft be able to get to such a dedicated highway or how civilian casualties could be minimized on such occasions? But none the less, it is a feat to be applauded, especially in India, where the condition of the roads are nor even pleasurable for cars, let alone airplanes.

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Updated Date: May 21, 2015 16:41:21 IST