The engine powering an Indian Navy MiG-29K fighter caught fire, following which the plane reportedly crashed soon after taking off from Dabolim air base, Goa state, on Saturday.
"At about noon on 16 Nov 2019, a MiG-29K twin seater aircraft, on a routine training sortie, encountered a flock of birds after take off from the naval Air Base at Dabolim Goa," the Indian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.
"Preliminary investigations revealed that the cause of the crash was the bird hit into the engine. The incident is not related to any technical issues of the engine or the jet," an informed source told defenseworld.net.
According to the spokesperson of the Indian navy, two pilots aboard the aircraft carrier-based fighters ejected safely.
"The pilot observed that the left engine had flamed out and the right engine had caught fire. Attempts to recover the aircraft following the standard operating procedures were unsuccessful due to nature of emergency. The pilot, showing huge presence of mind, pointed the aircraft away from populated areas and both pilots ejected safely," the ministry said.
Although the cause of the accident is not related to technical failure of the MiG-29K's engine, the Russian-made Klimov RD-33MK turbofan engines had been under the scanner a few years ago when a report by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), India's autonomous auditor, said that its "reliability remains questionable."
"Since induction in February 2010, 40 engines (62%) of twin-engined MiG-29K have been withdrawn from service/rejected due to design-related defects,” the CAG report said.
India’s fleet of 45 MiG-29K aircraft, procured for $2.2 billion, currently operate from Navy’s sole aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. In future, these aicrafft will fly from the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant once it enters service.