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Abhinav Bindra flies aboard an F-16IN at Aero India 2009

February 12, 2009 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Abhinav Bindra, India's first Olympic gold medalist, got a ride in an 'F-16IN' yesterday during the Aero India international air show.

The demo F-16IN at Aero India 2009

He claimed it is the best thing he has experienced after winning the gold medal in Olympics.

''Words cannot explain the excitement I underwent in those 45 minutes on board the F16IN. It was simply ecstatic and I'm still coming to terms with the experience. It was probably similar to what I felt when I won the Olympic Gold last August,'' said the completely exhilarated Abhinav Bindra in a press release.

Bindra flew aboard a Lockheed Martin F-16 block 60 which is used to demo the F-16IN. The F-16IN would actually be specifically designed for the Indian Air Force.

The fourth generation F-16IN is in race for the IAF order floated to induct 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) into its depleting fleet and as a replacement in phases to the ageing Russian-made MiG-21 fighters.

At the controls of the 'F-16IN' was Lockheed's test-pilot Paul 'Bear' Randall, who has clocked 4,500 hours of flying time on various F-16 models.

"We went away from the airfield, pulled off a lot of Gs, up to 6.5 Gs. We did some manoeuvres like turns and rolls. And we flew past the clouds at 20,000 feet and almost hit the speed of sound,'' Randall said, giving 10/10 to the gold medalist.

Bindra also had the privilege of manning the flight for a few minutes. "I felt I was in able hands,'' the pilot said about giving the controls to Bindra.

During the last aero India show it was Ratan Tata, the chairman of Tata Industries who flew in an F-16 fighter jet.

Abhinav Bindra is an Indian shooter from Punjab and is the current World and Olympic champion in the 10 m Air Rifle event. By winning the gold in the 10m Air Rifle event at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, he became the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympic Games and India's first gold medal since 1980, when the Men's Field Hockey Team won the gold.

Aero India is a biennial air show and aviation exhibition held in Bangalore, India at the Yelahanka Air Force Station.