New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, along with Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, on Monday, flew a joint sortie in MiG-21 fighter from the Pathankot Airbase.

“The sortie was flown from the Pathankot airbase in Punjab. Abhinandan had been cleared for flying last month following a thorough medical check-up,” a senior IAF officer said.

According to IAF sources, the sortie lasted for around half-an-hour and was conducted on a trainer MiG-21 aircraft.

“It was a pleasure for me to fly with Abhinandan because he has got his flying category back, that is what all pilots look forward to. I also ejected in 1988, it took me 9 months to get my category back. He has been back in less than 6 months”, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa told reporters.

Furthermore, he added,”Both of us have 2 things in common – 1st, both of us ejected & 2nd, both of us have fought Pakistanis. I fought in Kargil, he fought after Balakot. 3rd, I’ve flown with his father. It’s an honour for me to do my last sortie in IAF, in a fighter aircraft, with his son.”

Abhinandan was captured by the Pakistan Army on February 27, after he engaged in an aerial dogfight with Pakistan Air Force aircraft, who were violating the Indian air space. Before being shot, Wing Commander Abhinandan downed an F-16 of the PAF by his Mig-21 Bison.

On August 15, Abhinandan was conferred with the prestigious Vir Chakra award. Vir Chakra is the third highest gallantry award in India after the Param Vir Chakra and the Mahavir Chakra.

The IAF pilot became a face of unflinching courage in the wake of his capture by Pakistan in February. Besides, he was one of the several fighters who intercepted the approaching Pakistani fighters. His actions made him a national hero in India.

The Indian Air Force Chief, BS Dhanao, is also a MiG-21 pilot and had flown the planes during the 1999 Kargil war while commanding the 17 Squadron.