Kozhikode: Wing Commander Deepak Vasant Sathe was an ace Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter with above 10,000 hours of flight duration over a career spanning 22 years. Sathe, 59, was awarded the coveted “sword of honour” (a recognition of his skills) during his service as an Indian Air Force pilot, said the Civil Aviation Ministry at a press conference Saturday.
“Captain Sathe was one of the best we had”, said Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri at the presser.
The former IAF fighter who lost his life in the deadly accident, was an alumnus of the prestigious National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, was also an accomplished test pilot.
Survivors of Friday’s plane crash in Kerala’s Kozhikode said the aircraft’s captain used all his experience and flying skills to avert a far more deadly outcome.
At least 19 people were killed, including the two pilots, and more than 100 injured when the Air India Express passenger plane repatriating Indians stuck at Dubai due to the coronavirus pandemic met with a deadly crash landing and slid 35ft down the gorge.
The Boeing-737 flight from Dubai to Calicut International Airport was carrying 190 passengers and crew, including 10 infants, the civil aviation ministry said in a statement.
“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. The aircraft shot off the runway and skidded off and it broke into two pieces. It was a miraculous escape for many,” V Ibrahim, one of the passengers who survived with minor injuries, said.
Table-top airports have been a risky affair for flight landings as cautioned on a number of occasions by experts. The last such ghastly air mishap was the crash landing at the runway at Mangalore where a similar Air India Express flight slid down a hill, killing 158 people.
Out of the 190 people on board, 123 people have been injured and 20 are in serious condition, said hospital sources adding some of them received spinal cord injuries in the impact.
Officials said 38 passengers are in Kozhikode MIMS Hospital, 28 in Baby Memorial Hospital and 14 in Medical College Hospital.