Wing Commander Sundaram Krishnamurthy (retd), along with his wife Sudha Krishna, chronicles a lifetime experience of flying helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF) in Through the Rotor Disc
The book is a collection of articles, short stories and anecdotes written by the couple. Born in Coimbatore and educated in Chennai, Wg Cdr SS Krishnamurthy (retd) flew helicopters in the IAF from 1967-1990, through the 1971 war and even to the South Pole. The flying continued later in the civil sector too. After having looked after the Flight Safety in offshore companies in Juhu, he is settled in Mumbai. Now, he spends his time conducting audits around Aviation Security, Flight Safety and ISO compliance.
Sudha Krishna majored in history and was a secondary school teacher. She traveled all around the country with her husband and kept note of all the journeys.
Wg Cdr Sundaram Krishnamurthy (retd) talks about the influences and experiences that shaped this book:
What inspired you to title the book ‘Through the Rotor Disc’?
As I commenced flying helicopters in the IAF, my view of the world was always through the rotor disc. Before and during the war and peace, whether it was the soldiers or the rations we carried or during the mercy missions, they were all observed through the rotor disc.
The world appeared different owing to the training we imbibed but still (what I may term it) ‘Through the Rotor Disc’. Just to describe a rotor disc, may I ask you to see a ceiling fan rotating above you. It forms a rotating disc. Sitting in the cockpit the pilot tilts the disc to the side he wants to turn. To climb, make an upward attitude with the rotor disc. Our vision is conditioned by the disc all through our life. So, a heli-pilot sees his life through a “rotor disc”.
How did you decide to share your expriences in the form of a book?
Since 1994, I have been putting down in writing my life experiences, including that of the 1971 war. My personal journal and diary helped me in keeping the contents right. A few were published in The Indian Express, The Times of India, and other periodicals. In 1997, I shifted to Mumbai from Delhi to pursue civil flying. Even when I got busy, I continued writing but never bothered to get them published.
In all, I built up about 300 plus pages of writing. In the meanwhile, my wife joined me in writing. It was during the lockdown that we decided to compile it all into a book. It was a personal desire to make everyone aware of the 1971 war and the glorious traditions of the IAF.
Helicopter pilots all over the world carry out ‘casualty evacuations’ or ‘mercy missions’ to bring the injured (during war or peace) from remote areas to places where medical facilities are available. I am no exception. These flights introduced me to the Artificial Limb Centre (ALC), Paraplegics Rehabilitation Centre (PRC) and Queen Mary Technical Institute for Paraplegics (QMTI). So, we decided to channelize the proceeds from the book as a donation to these three institutions.
What would be your advice to anyone who wants to become a helicopter pilot?
Like any other profession, flying too requires the right attitude. Additionally, flying for the Defence forces is adventurous. If young ones want to take up heli-flying in the Defence forces, I’d advise them to join the Army, Navy and Air Force.
There are private, but expensive, flying institutions in India and other countries. If one could afford the cost, he or she may take up learning flying in these institutions.
What are the major lessons that we all need to learn from war?
History has proved that wars are madness. It is a very expensive way to settle disputes between two countries or a set of countries. British Group Captain Leonard Cheshire ((7 September 1917 – 31 July 1992), was an observer to the dropping of the atomic bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and he couldn’t bear the sight of destruction. He accepted that thousands were killed. We all have read about Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Dynasty, who ruled most of India from 268 to 232 BCE, and his fight in Kalinga. These are two major examples of people who couldn’t accept the negative aspects of war. In our 70-odd years of independent India, we have witnessed three major wars and many skirmishes. Many have been killed and many injured and/or maimed for life.
How safe are helicopters as compared to an aircraft in a battlefield?
Many believe that fixed-wing plane travel is extremely safe and helicopter flights are more dangerous. Helicopter operations are much less complex than that of airplanes, but they require a greater skill level and demand more airmanship.
Most of a fixed-wing pilot’s time is spent in heights above 18,000 feet. Helicopters are utility items and so they fly at heights between 2,500 and 9,000 feet above ground level. Please note that we are limiting our discussions to helicopter on the non-offensive role.
In the war scenario, the height at which to fly the helicopters (whether attack version or non-armed versions) depends on strategy, and of course, tactics followed during that period.
To be specific, during the 1971 war, the Mi 4 helicopters that were utilized to airlift and transport Indian Army soldiers were unarmed.
Price: Rs. 250
Publisher: Notion Press