Air Marshal – Indian Air Force
As a young boy Adi Gandhi had shown a keenness for the Armed Forces by joining the Sea Cadet CorpsIt was, however, during the Indian Air Force air show at Bombay off Marine Drive in the year 1960, when Adi was in his final year, and the whole of Campion had gone to see it from Nariman Point, that he changed his mind, after seeing all the aircraft streaking across the Bombay skyline, and decided to join the Air Force.
He was commissioned in the Indian Air Force on 28 Oct 63 as a fighter pilot. During his 41 years of service, he has flown a variety of fighter aircraft including the venerable Vampire, Hunter, Gnats, as also more contemporary aircraft like the MiG 21, MiG 29, Mirage 2000 and the latest SU 30. He has flown over 5500 sorties on fighter aircraft during his service career. On May 20, 2002, Air Marshal A.R. Ghandhi was appointed as Air Officer Commanding-in-chief of Western Air Command. The command controls the country's air combat assets from Leh in Jammu and Kashmir to Ganganagar in Rajasthan. Air Marshal Ghandhi was commissioned in the fighter stream of the Indian Air Force in 1963 and flew over 5500 sorties. As a young pilot officer, Air Marshal Ghandhi flew Hunter during the 1965 Indo-Pak war and was awarded Vir Chakra for having shot down a Pakistani F-86 Sabre aircraft in a combat mission over Halwara while flying with the "Battle Axes". Adi has also undergone a variety of professional courses from Junior Commander's Course, to Joint Warfare Course, Higher Air Command, Senior Defence Management and National Defence College Course. He is a Master Green Pilot, the highest professional grading and Command Examiner of long standing. He is a Fighter Combat Leader (Directing Staff) and served two tenures at Tactics and Combat Development Establishment (TACDE) AF as O i/c Development and O i/c Training. Air Marshal Ghandhi has also served tenure abroad on deputation to the Nigerian Air Force for two years as an instructor pilot.
During the 1971 operations, he flew MIG-21 aircraft with the "Eighth Pursoot". As a Fighter Combat Leader he has served two tenures with the Tactics and Air Combat Development Establishment. The Air Marshal commanded the ‘Flying Lances’ squadron and subsequently an operational base operating the Mirage-2000. An alumnus of the College of Air Warfare College of Defence Management and National Defence College, Air Marshal Gandhi’s appointments included Directing Staff at Army College of Combat (Mhow), Director Air Staff Inspection, Additional Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations), Assistant, Chief of Air Staff (Personnel Officers), Commandant, College of Air Warfare and Senior Air Staff Officer at two operational Commands—South-Western and Western Air Command prior to his appointment as AOC-in-C, Western Air Command. He is also a recipient of Ati Vishisht Seva Medal.
Adi is the youngest pilot to be awarded the "Vir Chakra", for having shot down a Pakistani F-86 "Sabre" from his Hunter during the 1965 Indo-Pak war.
Vir Chakra Citation
"On 6th September 1965, Flg. Off. Adi Rustomji Ghandhi was number two in a section of two aircraft on a combat air patrol sortie over Halwara airfield. Two other aircraft were also airborne on the same mission for mutual cover. Suddenly four Pakistani F-86 aircraft sneaked in low to attack the airfield and pulled up just behind Fg Off Ghandhi's section. One of the enemy Sabres shot down his leader before it was spotted. Undeterred by this sudden misfortune, Fg Off Ghandhi skillfully maneuvered his aircraft behind the F-86 aircraft and shot it down. Thereafter, overwhelmed by numbers, he was himself shot down. The Sabres were however driven off and the enemy attack foiled. Our airfield, aircraft and ground installations escaped damage. In this operation, Fg. Off. Ghandhi displayed commendable courage in the face of the enemy."
He was also awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) for distinguished services of an exceptional order at the Republic Day in 1994. He has also been awarded the "Three Star" category for safe and accident free flying. He was awarded the "Gaurav Puraskar" for his gallantry by the Government of Maharashtra in 1991 and is also the recipient of the Colonel Tarapore Annual Achievement Award. In the Republic Day honors’ list for the year 2003 he was awarded the Param Vishist Seva Medal for distinguished service of the most exceptional order as the Air Officer Commanding in Chief of Western Air Command, the largest and most active Air Command of the IAF.
Actually Campion has got one more Gandhi in the IAF. His name is Kersi Gandhi. Said one teacher: We got the news about the decoration we did not know which Gandhi it was. We thought it would be Kersi he is the type who would roar down Colaba Causeway at 70m/h without batting an eyelid. According to the school Adi was no genius at studies. His mother said something any proud mother would be expected to say "In Delhi they are calling him the Hero of the Sky." Mrs. Dolly Gandhi she had just returned from Delhi where she had seen her son at the hospital (he hurt his spine as he baled out of his plane). She said "He is trying to show those Air Force officers he can walk so that he can go into action again. That boy will never learn".
Adi his mother says always wanted to fly. Being the only son the mother did not approve of his ambition. Become a purser in Air India