On August 7, 2020, Air India pilot Deepak Vasant Sathe, who was flying the Air India Express 1344 flight, died when the plane crashed in the runway at Kozhikode International Airport in Kerala. He was among 18 people on board the aircraft who lost their lives in the crash (thus far), including co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar. Remembering him as a “great son”, Wing Commander Sathe’s mother Neela Sathe said that he was always the “first one to help others in need”.

“He was a great son and always first one to help others in need. His teachers still appreciate him,” the deceased pilot’s mother, told news agency ANI.

What You Should Know

  • Thus far 18 people have died in last night’s Air India Express flight crash at Kozhikode International Airport.
  • Among them was Captain Deepak Vasant Sathe, who was a retired Air Force officer.
  • The Express flight was part of the Vande Bharat repatriation mission for expatriates from the UAE.
  • Captain Sathe’s mother has said that he was “always first one to help others in need”.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that the Maharashtra born pilot did his best at the last moment to save hundreds of lives. The plane carried a total of 190 passengers, including 174 adults and 10 infants. Reportedly when Sathe realised that it was going to crash, he turned off the engine to ensure that the plane didn’t catch fire upon landing. Preliminary inputs indicate that “the fuselage broke into two after the aircraft overshot the runway during its second attempt to land at the Karipur ‘tabletop’ airport,” India Today report says.

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Who was Captain Sathe?

Sathe was a former test pilot with the Indian Air Force (IAF). The accomplished aerial operator is known to have flown the Airbus 310 for Air India before moving to Air India Express to fly a Boeing 737. Captain Sathe was also the recipient of a Sword of Honour at the Air Force Academy (AFA). He also loved to play squash for leisure.

Thanking the Captain for his presence of mind, a survivor V Ibrahim said, “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,” Hindustan Times reported.

Sathe had also served with No.17 Squadron, ‘Golden Arrows’ which was recently recommissioned with the Rafale fighter jets. He had joined the Indian Air Force in June 1981 and quit prematurely in June 2003. “This is sad. Sathe was a comrade in arms at the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment STE (IAF’s flight testing establishment) with me. RIP Tester. The call signs of all test pilots have the ‘Tester’ prefix,” said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd). The 58-year-old pilot was a resident of Jalvayu Building in Powai. He had also served as an instructor at the Air Force Training Academy.

His cousin, Nilesh Sathe, Finance Advisor at the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), said Sathe is survived by a wife and two sons, both are IIT Bombay passouts, Economic Times reported.

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Co-pilot survived by a pregnant wife

Sathe’s co-pilot on the Air India flight, 32-year-old Akhilesh Kumar, was a native of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh and is survived by a pregnant wife. The couple got married in December 2017.

He has begun flying with Air India in 2017 as a first officer. “He was a very humble, polite, & well-behaved person,” Basudev, Akhilesh’s cousin told ANI.

Both the pilots were part of the ‘Vande Bharat’ repatriation initiative.

Feature Image Credit: ANI

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