Two pairs of MiG-21 FLs took off with a deafening roar from the runway of the Kalaikunda air base at 9.45 a.m. for one last time Wednesday, ending a 50-year-long association with the IAF.
The jet -- that has been flown by nearly three out of every four fighter pilots of the IAF since its induction in 1963 and dealt telling blows to the Pakistan Air Force during the 1971 war -- made its final pass in a four-aircraft box formation over the tarmac area.
A separate formation by three MiG-27 MLs roared overhead, performing the Trishul Break Manoeuvre in a final salute to the MiG-21s (Type-77).
It was a nostalgic moment for Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne and many other weather-beaten IAF veterans who had flown the jet and experienced the distinct "kick" of its reheat, regarded by aviation experts as quite unlike any other fighter jet's "reheat" experience.
Browne, who reviewed the parade on the ground, commanded by Group Captain V.P. Singh -- commander of the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) which provides the final phase of training to rookie pilots who have earned their wings - called it a watershed moment in IAF's history.
"Today's event marks a watershed moment in IAF's history as we reach the end of nearly five decades of remarkable operational service rendered by this iconic fighter," he said.
The curtain came down on an enduring saga in IAF's aviation history, as an MiG-21 FL bearing tail number C-1125 was towed out of the parade square to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne", with wing walkers marching alongside.
Image: An Indian Air Force Mig-21 aircraft fires flares at Hindon Air Force station on the outskirts of New Delhi on October 8, 2012 during the Air Force Day parade to celebrate its 80th anniversary. (AFP)