Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who emerged a national hero earlier this year after an aerial combat between India and Pakistan in February, flew a MiG-21 with Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa today.
The 30-minute sortie came nearly six months after Abhinandan Varthaman shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet during the dogfight between India and Pakistan on February 27. Captured by Pakistani forces during the aerial combat near the Line of Control, he returned to India three days later, on March 1.
Today, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa and Vir Chakra awardee Abhinandan Varthaman took off in the MiG-21 trainer from Pathankot.
This was Air Chief Marshal's last sortie. "This is my last sortie on a fighter jet. Both of us have two things in common - first, both of us ejected and second, both of us have fought Pakistanis. I fought in Kargil, he fought after Balakot. And third, I've flown with his father. It's an honour for me to do my last sortie in the IAF, in a fighter aircraft, with his son," the Air Chief Marshal said.
Reacting to the visuals of the two officers flying a two-seater version of the Russian-origin legacy jet, social media users said they were missing Abhinandan Varthaman's signature gunslinger moustache.
"The handlebar is gone. But, the style and smile remain," a user wrote on the micro-blogging site.
Another user wrote: "Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman gets rid of his iconic handlebar moustache, flaunts new look."
"Sad to see that he has trimmed his iconic moustache," another user tweeted.
Abhinandan Varthaman, who spent nearly 60 hours in Pakistan's custody after his MiG-21 Bison was shot down by Pakistan Air Force F-16s in February, was awarded the Vir Chakra gallantry medal on Independence Day. He resumed his flying operations on August 23.
His signature moustache had become a rage in the last few months and inspired many men across the country to emulate the style sense.