The pilot who died in the tragic Air India Express flight crash was a decorated India Air Force pilot and ‘Sword of Honour’ awardee.
Former wing commander Deepak Vasant Sathe belonged to the 58th Course of the National Defence Academy, Kharakvasla, where he bagged the coveted ‘Sword of Honour’ on passing out from the National Defence Academy. He hailed from the state of Maharashtra.
The ‘Sword of Honour’ is awarded to the cadet first in the order of merit when passing from national service training academies including those of the defence, navy or the air force. Captain DV Sathe was accompanied by Captain Akhilesh Kumar as co-pilot, who was seriously injured and moved for treatment but was later reported dead.
Captain saved hundreds of lives
Quoting unconfirmed reports, India Today said that Captain Sathe, who retired as a Wing Commander with the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2003, turned off the plane’s engine right before the crash, thus ensuring that it didn’t catch fire upon crash landing, and, in the process, saving several lives.
Speaking to media, survivors also credited Captain Sathe with saving their lives. “It was raining heavily. The pilot had given a warning before landing saying the weather was really bad. He tried for safe landing twice but lost control. It was a miraculous escape for many”, Hindustan Times quoted one of the survivors as saying.
Civil aviation regulator DGCA said the visibility at the airport was around 2,000 meters at the time of the incident and the airport was witnessing heavy rains and the Dubai-Calicut Air India Express flight fell into a 30 feet deep gorge in the valley. At least 18 people have been killed and more than 120 injured in the incident.
President Ram Nath Kovind expressed his anguish on the tragedy. “Deeply distressed to hear about the tragic plane crash of Air India Express flight at Kozhikode, Kerala. Spoke to @KeralaGovernor Shri Arif Mohammed Khan and inquired about the situation. Thoughts and prayers with affected passengers, crew members and their families,” he tweeted.