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Captain saves hundreds, loses own life

A Draft Correspondent | Kozhikode

Wing Commander Deepak Vasant Sathe lived like a legend and died like one too. The ex-Indian Air Force pilot, with 22 years of experience, who was also awarded the prestigious “sword of honour” when he graduated from the Air Force Academy at Dundigal near Hyderabad in June 1981, and was a HAL Test Pilot, which meant he was the best of the best was also an alumnus of the prestigious National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla.

Capt. Deepak Sathe died while saving hundreds of lives
Wing Commander (Retd) Deepak Vasant Sathe was flying the Air India Express flight from Dubai to Calicut International Airport on 7 August 2020. The Boeing-737 was carrying 190 passengers and crew that included 10 infants.

While landing in the evening, the pilot realised that the landing gears had failed. Putting all his experience to use, knowing it would have to be a crash landing, the pilot flew over the airport two times, draining all the fuel to ensure that there would be no fire.

Unfortunately, he chose a runway, whose condition was already bad - a fact probably unknown to him. The aircraft skid the tabletop runaway and fell into the 35-feet valley before breaking into two and crashing.

If the pilot had not emptied the fuel, then the broken and crashed aircraft would have caught fire, and hundreds of lives would have been lost.

The pilot Wing Commander (Retd) Deepak Vasant Sathe and co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar - whose wife is expecting a child in the coming fortnight - along with 16 passengers died in the mishap and 20 were left with serious injuries.

The Karipur airport's poor runway lighting system and failure to monitor the braking conditions may have led to the tragedy, feel pilots who have landed planes on the runway earlier.

The aircraft skid the tabletop runaway and fell into the valley before breaking into two
Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri ordered the probe into the accident saying two teams of professionals from the Air India, Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) will conduct a detailed investigation. The AAIB happens to be a division of the Civil Aviation Ministry which investigates aircraft accidents and incidents in India.

Incidentally, aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation had issued a show-cause notice to the director of the Kozhikode airport on July 11 last after it found 'various critical safety lapses' in different places, including the runway and the airport apron.

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