A FORMAL phasing out ceremony was held at Yelahanka Air Force Station on December 17 to mark retirement of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) Soviet-era Mi-8 ‘Pratap’ medium-lift helicopters. The final unit with the type had been 112 Helicopter Unit (HU) at Yelahanka and the last mission was flown there during the event by former head of the IAF Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major (ret’d) along with the CO of 112 HU. The chief guest was IAF Training Command Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Air Marshal S R K Nair.
Recalling the service of the Mi-8, Air Marshal Nair said “Ever since the rotors churned for the first time, this helicopter played a very significant role right from the glaciers of Siachen, down to Andaman and Nicobar Islands and even across the littoral islands we have around our country.”
Between 1971 and 1988, the IAF inducted 107 Mi-8s. The type formally entered IAF service in 1972 and was christened the Pratap in Indian service. It served with ten operational helicopter units and was extensively used in humanitarian and disaster relief operations, as well as VIP and VVIP flying. The type has now been replaced in IAF service by newer Mi-17 variants.