A Lucky Pilot - Pakistan Aviation

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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.

January, 1948
First Graduation Parade at Risalpur and Subsequent Visit of Quaid-e-Azam

The first pilots' course comprised seven Officer Cadets, only five of them completed their training successfully. These first ever to graduate from Risalpur were Under Officers Saleem and myself, Cadet Sergeants, Asia, Chaudhry and Chopping.

The second of January, was a red-letter day for Risalpur and indeed for the RPAF that was celebrated jubilantly. The C-in-C of the Royal Pakistan Air Force, Air-Vice-Marshal Perry Keene reviewed the parade. Mr. Abdul Qayyum Khan, Chief Minister NWFP and the GOC Peshawar, Major General Nazir Ahmad were among the many dignitaries who were present on that great occasion.

It was adjudged as an "above the average" course, as such, we were immediately posted to a Tempest Squadron without having flown any intermediate aircraft like the Hurricane or Spit-fire as they were not allotted to Pakistan. Three amongst us were selected for the instructional duties only after one or two years of fighter flying. It was indeed an unfortunate course. Asif, a younger brother of Air Marshal Asghar Khan died in a Harvard crash at Gilgit on 14th February 1948. Saleem had a fatal accident in a training "Dogfight" manoeuvres against a much experienced instructor Flt. Lt. Saeed Ullah Khan, later to become an Air Vice Marshal, Chaudhry got killed at Risalpur while imparting training to a cadet. Chopping's case was the most pathetic and tragic. The following day, on his return from England after completing a successful course on jet aircraft in 1950, he under-shot and crashed his Auster aircraft at Multan airfield due to the shortage of fuel. He had opted to ferry the aircraft to Peshawar, instead of flying in a passenger plane.

There is only one survivor of that unlucky course who is writing these reminiscences. I probably, survived, because I was posted to a Transport Squadron after my first landing accident in a Tempest aircraft. At that time, it was known to be the fastest propeller driven fighter/bomber aircraft in the world. It had a bad characteristic of swinging after landing due to the 'hand brakes' instead of 'toe brakes' which we all were used to in training aircraft. I am sure the sacrifices, have not gone waste as these have made the PAF, a formidable force. It has kept a much bigger powerfull country India at bay, in carrying out its nefarious designs and activities to undo the existence of Pakistan.

At Risalpur, my instructor was late Air Marshal Rahim Khan for only three months. Our left over training from Ambala started in October, 1947 since we had already spent the whole of September in collecting and overhauling our share of aircrafts from Ambala and Jodhpur. Flying Officer Rahim Khan was another brave instructor pilot, who had to teach me some aerobatics and night flying, which were not completed in India. Once he nearly killed himself and me over the Cherat hills as we recovered very late from an international spin. When we landed, he saw me pale and thought that I did not like such manoeuvres.

Once he got annoyed with me as I went to East Punjab to evacuate some of my family members in an Air Force truck. When I returned he asked me where the "hell" I had been for the last three days. I explained to him, that it was an official convoy and we had the approval from the Commandant Risalpur and the AHQs. He insisted that being his student, I should have taken his prior permission before leaving the Station. I explained to him that it was a short notice, given to us on the previous week-end and moreover, he was not available. He did not believe me warned me that it should never happen again. Such was the discipline and sense of duty of our Instructors in those days.

Air Marshal Rahim Khan became friendly with me only when he came to know that he was younger than me by a few months. And after an abrupt termination of his services from the Air Force as the C-in-C by Mr. Bhutto, the Prime Minister. Later on, he resigned from the Ambassadorial post in Spain due to some serious differences with me P.M. Once he was staying at my house in Lahore, he saw a number of photographers framed with the autographs of different Heads of States. He smilingly said as to why his picture was not among them. It was nice of him to send his photograph later with a very nice caption, in C-in-C's ceremonial uniform, taking a salute at the RAF Cramwell in England.

Another incident, I remember about him was on a Partridge-cum-Duck shoot at Larkana when he was the Commandant of the Staff College at Drig Road in 1968. My younger brother Bashir, was more friendly with him, also accompanied us in a Cessna 180. After an unsuccessful shoot the aircraft refused to start due to the weak battery. We had to stay an uncomfortable night at Larkana with our Sindhi host and got the accumulator charged. In those days Rahim Khan was friendly with Mr. Bhutto, the Foreign Minister and always regretted afterwards for not having stayed at "Al-Murtaza".

The passing out date for the first IAF/PAF course, consisting of 5 cadets was originally fixed on the 20th of December, 1947. The British Commander-in-Chief, Air Vice Marshal Perry-Keene was supposed to take the salute. Two days before, Wing-Commander Asghar Khan, the Commandant informed us during the last "dining in night" that the passing out date had been postponed to the 2nd of January 1948 due to the C-in-C's sudden indisposition. Since I was one of the two Under Officers I took the liberty to talk to him. "Sir, it means that we would now be known as 1948 Commissioned Officers" He replied 'so what'. Although, in twenty-three years before the retirement, I have had a wonderful inning during my service career, without achieving a higher rank than Wing Commander. It was mainly due to the fact that I was seconded to the Civil Aviation Department for nine years. Nevertheless, I always envied my three college class-fellows from the Government College, Lahore who earned their Commission and higher ranks much before me.


The Quaid's historic visit to the Flying Training School at Risalpur in 1948 was a landmark for the RPAF, which raised its status to the level of a College. Accompanied by his sister Miss Fatima Jinnah, the Quaid arrived in his Dakota aircraft flown by the British crew early in the morning of 13th April and proceeded to review the ceremonial parade held to mark the great occasion. The Flight Cadets of the 2nd, 4th and 5th GD(P) course formed the Parade. It was commanded by the late Squadron Leader Salahuddin known as 'Big Sally'. After taking the salute, the Quaid, delivered his historic address in which he spelled out the crucial role of the RPAF in the defence of our country and wrote in the Visitors' Book:

"It gives me great pleasure to pay my first visit to a unit of the Royal Pakistan Air Force. There is no doubt that any country without an Air Force, is at the mercy of any aggressor. Pakistan must build up her Air Force, as quickly as possible. It must be an efficient Air Force, second to none, and must take its rightful place with the Army and Navy in securing Pakistan's defence."

Pakistan Air Force has not lagged behind, in honouring the Quaid's invaluable and everlasting advice throughout its existence. I am proud, to have been in the Pakistan Air Force. Not knowing, that after a few months I would have the honour to fly him as a second pilot to Quetta on his last flight to recover from his fatal disease.