8-Pass Charlie was the codename of an unknown Pakistan Air Force B-57 bomber ace pilot who raided the Adampur airbase of the Indian Air Force in Indian Punjab a number of times during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 notably starting the series of raids on the base by a solo raid.
He was named “8-Pass Charlie” by his impressed Indian adversaries at the Adampur base as he used to make eight passes, one for each bomb, on selected targets with improving efficiency instead of safely dropping all his bomb load and exiting.
He is also known to have had expertise in disguising his attack run by confusing anti-aircraft gunners by cutting throttles before entering a dive.
One of 8-Pass Charlie’s confirmed kills is an Indian Air Force MiG 21s on Operational Readiness Platform (ORP) which was about to take off when he executed the first raid on the Adampur airbase at 2200 hours with his lone B-57 on 6 September, 1965.
Adampur airbase’s runway was also damaged.
In addition to his routine of making eight passes over Adampur, the unknown pilot also seemed to have had a second routine of conducting his raids thirty minutes after moonrise.
Paddy Earle, an IAF fighter pilot, paid tribute to the unknown ace by saying:
I have the utmost respect for the Pakistani Canberra bloke who loved to ruin the equanimity of our dreary lives! 8-Pass Charlie was an ace, but he had this nasty habit of turning up about 30 min. after moonrise, just as we were downing our first drink! Seriously, he was a cool dude and a professional of the highest order. To disguise the direction of his run, he used to cut throttles before entering a dive and by the time the ack-ack opened up he was beneath the umbrella of fire. After dropping his load he’d apply full throttle and climb out above the umbrella.
Many people have tried to decipher who the ace pilot was. The publication Story Of PAF Heroes in a way states that Sqn Ldr Najeeb Khan could have been 8 Pass Charlie although some IAF experts believe otherwise.
The book Cold War Jet Combat: Air-to-Air Jet Fighter Operations 1950-1972 also points towards the same possibility.
Despite being mysteriously famous, no one has been ever able to find his real identity. Internet and books are full of theories & rumors and he highhandedly remains one of the most respected pilots.
We can only admire his flying and bravery just as the IAF pilots did in those days. For days, he remained a nightmare and perhaps indirectly made us more vigilant.