Jammu, Jul 29: A family member of Flight Lieutenant Advitiya Bal, who was one of the two IAF pilots killed in a plane crash on Thursday, expressed regret over the way he died while flying an "ailing" aircraft instead of "fighting enemies".
He also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to immediately retire the entire fleet of ageing MiG-21 jets so that no more young lives are lost.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots were killed Thursday night when their twin-seater MiG-21 trainer aircraft crashed during a training sortie near Barmer. Wing Commander M Rana from Himachal Pradesh was the second pilot.
"Our child was passionate about fighting enemies on the battlefield, but after his death in the crash, his goal will remain unfulfilled," his uncle Karamveer, who is a retired army personnel, said.
"I want to request the prime minister and defence minister to retire the MiG-21 (fleet) so that no more youngsters lose their lives," he added.
Hundreds of people from various parts of Jammu thronged the house of the IAF pilot in Jindermehlu hamlet in the border belt of R S Pura to share the grief of the family members.
Several of them said Bal was a "new age role model" for the children of the village and they were proud of his martyrdom.
One of them was Sanjay Singh, who is preparing for the National Defence Academy (NDA) examination -- gateway for candidates aspiring to join defence forces -- after getting inspired by Bal.
"He was a role model for all of us. Since childhood, he was passionate about becoming a fighter pilot and fulfilled his dream," Singh said.
Bal's father too has served in the Army.
Air headquarters has already ordered a court of inquiry to ascertain the cause of the accident. MiG-21s were the mainstay of the IAF for a long time. However, the aircraft has had a very poor safety record of late.
In March, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhat said in the Rajya Sabha that 42 defence personnel were killed in accidents involving aircraft and helicopters of the three services in the last five years.
The total number of air accidents in the last five years was 45 out of which 29 involved IAF's platforms.