A Lucky Pilot - Pakistan Aviation

Lucky Pilot Home | Concordia Expeditions

Wing Commander Lanky Ahmad passed away on October 12, 2004 at Lahore, Pakistan where he was born in 1924 and is buried in the Pakistan Air Force graveyard located just before the landing strip of the Lahore International Airport runway.

September, 1947
Pakistan's Share of Aircraft from Undivided India

The first contingent of training aircraft to arrive in Risalpur, Pakistan was on the 6th of September which consisted of six Harvards from Ambala. These were flown in by Instructors Flt. Lts. Khyber Khan, S. A. Aziz, Flying Officers Rahim Khan and Zafar Chaudhry. (The last two, late became the Chiefs of the Air Staff) acting Pilot Officer Afzal and myself. During the landing at Risalpur, Afzal had a swing and scraped a wing-tip on the grassy runway causing its first minor accident. It was repaired during the night by our Technical Officer "Chacha" Siddique who was known to be an expert in repairing damaged aircraft.

The next day, these aircraft were emblazoned with the newly designed Pakistan markings, which gave a boost to our morale. Most of us rushed to have ourselves photographed next to the Crescent and Star, the new insignia of the Royal Pakistan Air Force.

A few days later, another ferry was conducted to fly our share of the Tiger-Moths from India. The story of this ferry flight is perhaps best told by one of its participant, Flying Officer Zafar Chaudhry. His article has also been published in the PAF History Book.

"Upon the division of India, the RPAF was allotted eight Tiger-Moth aircraft from RIAF's Elementary Flying Training School at Jodhpur and our team was tasked to ferry them across to Risalpur. When we reached Jodhpur we were told that we could only have seven of them as one aircraft had been damaged beyond repairs at that station. After a careful briefing by the leader, the formation took off in the early hours of 12th September.

The seven machines were piloted by Squadron Leader Joseph, later he became Air-Vice Marshal Yousaf, Flying Officers Masroor Hosain and myself, Officer Cadets Lanky Ahmad, Saleem, Asif and Chaudhry. It was rare that the trainees with less than a hundred hours of flying experience were required to ferry aircraft over such a long and difficult route. Moreover, the aircraft were to be flown in formation and the cadets had not even practiced the formation flying.

At our third stop at Nawabshah, thousands including the fresh arrival of Indian immigrants, swarmed all over the Airfield to see the spectacle, despite the stifling heat; their enthusiasm was something to watch. The fact that the aircraft now belonged to Pakistan made them wild with excitement. The night was spent in a local rest-house, where all of us fell dead asleep after a full day of exhausting but satisfying work. Next morning, twenty minutes after getting airborne for Jacobabad, Joseph's aircraft force-landed in the desert with a "dead engine." The remaining six continued to Multan via Khanpur, barely making it before sunset. Here, one aircraft flown by Cadet Chaudhry sustained some damage while landing and then we were left with only five Tiger-Moths.

On reaching Mianwali on the morning of 14th September, the escorting, Dakota crew told us that some sugar had been found in the fuel tank of the Leader's aircraft and this had been the cause of the engine failure. On checking our aircraft we found the filters in three of them were choked with sugar. Had we taken off for Risalpur in that condition the ending would have been tragic. As it was only one aircraft flown by late Masroor Hussain was declared serviceable and flown to Risalpur, landing there in the afternoon of 14th September which was our planned date of arrival.

At Mianwali, we waited for two days under the open sky for the arrival of Air Headquarters' inspection team which somehow never showed-up. In the meantime, the four unprotected Tiger-Moths were likely to get damaged in the seasonal dust-storms without any mooring facility. We cleared the engines, as best as we could with the limited staff, ground tested the aircraft and took off for Risalpur in a gale, which was threatening to overturn them. The engines made funny noises and the weather looked grim, but we pressed on and reached our destination in the evening. The pilots looked like ghosts, laden with dust and oil, unshaven beards and hardly any clothes on them due to heat and humidity. It was obvious that someone had put sugar in the fuel tanks of four aircraft which were housed in a separate hanger at Jodhpur. Was it a parting kick or a gift from some Indian Airmen?"

I remember a connected incident with the above story. We were going to Peshawar from Risalpur by a PAF truck to be flown by a Dakota for Jodhpur to ferry the Tiger Moths. At Pabbi town we were stopped and not allowed to proceed further as the Hindu-Muslim riots were in full swing at Peshawar. Sqn/Ldr Joseph, our leader went to the Railway Station Pabbi to inform Risalpur about the situation. I followed him to make sure that he was not harmed because he was then a non-Muslim. To my surprise, he spoke the Pashto language very well. I was relieved and felt a little embarrassed in trying to be extra smart to protect a senior officer who happened to out Chief Flying Instructor.