Coimbatore: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will fly an aircraft again after he has been declared fit, IAF Chief Air Marshal BS Dhanoa said on Monday.
“Whether he fly again or not depends upon his medical fitness. Post-ejection, he has undergone a medical check. Whatever treatment is required, we will give it to him. Once he gets the medical fitness, he will get into fighter cockpit,” he told reporters here.
He went on to add, “If he is fit to fly a fighter, then he will go back soon. If he is not fit to fly, he will become a low medical category till the time he gets his currency. He will then go back when he gets his fighter currency back.”
Underlining that medical fitness is a topmost priority for the IAF, the Air Chief Marshal explained, “Ejection is something that takes a toll on your body and if you are not perfectly fit and God forbid you have to eject again, you will be spending the rest of your life in a wheelchair. We do not take a chance with the fitness of a fighter pilot.”
“When we select people at the entry-level, the medical rejection is very high. Your physical condition and curvature of the spine have to be very good to take that kind of ejection injury,” he added.
On being asked about the current situation at the border, the Air Chief replied, “It is an ongoing operation, I will not comment on that.”
On February 27, Varthaman, flying a MiG-21 Bison, was chasing Pakistani F-16 fighters which had transgressed into the Indian airspace, and in the process, his plane crossed over to the Pakistani side and was shot down. He ejected safely but was taken into custody by the Pakistan Army upon landing. Before his plane was shot, he had hit a Pakistani F-16.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced the release of Varthaman, calling it a “peace gesture”. He was handed over to the Indian authorities through the Wagah-Attari border at around 9:20 pm on March 1 after a delay of five hours.
Varthaman informed the top brass of IAF that he was subjected to a lot of mental harassment, though he was not physically tortured by Pakistan military authorities, said a source.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the Air Chief had met Varthaman at the Army RR Hospital in the national capital. During a separate meeting with the Air Chief, Varthaman briefed him about his detention in Pakistan, officials said.