*Image credit: policenama

It's hard to believe that Dipak Sathe, my friend more than my cousin, is no more. He was pilot of Air India Express carrying passengers from Dubai in 'Vande Bharat Mission', which skidded off the runway at Kozhikode International Airport yesterday night.

What is learnt is as follows:

Landing gears didn't work.

Ex IAF pilot made three rounds of the airport to empty the fuel which saved the plane from catching fire. That’s why there was no smoke seen coming from the crashed aircraft. 

He turned off the engine right before the crash.
He belly-landed after the 3rd iteration.
The right-wing was ruptured.

The Pilot martyred but saved the life of 180 co-passengers.

Deepak was an experienced aerial operator with 36 years of flying experience. A pass out of NDA, topper in the 58th course and an awardee of 'Sword of Honour', Dipak served Indian Air Force for 21 years before joining as a Commercial Pilot with Air India in 2005.

He called me just a week before and was jovial, as always. When I asked him about the 'Vande Bharat' Mission, he was proud of bringing back our countrymen from Arab countries. I asked him, "Dipak, do you carry empty Aircraft since those countries are not allowing entry of passengers?" He had replied," Oh, No. We carry fruits, vegetables, medicines etc to these countries and never the aircraft flies to these countries empty." That was my last conversation with him.

He survived in an air crash in the early nineties when he was in Airforce. He was hospitalized for 6 months for multiple skull injuries and nobody thought that he will fly again. But his strong will power and love for flying made him clear the test again. It was a miracle.

He leaves behind his wife and two sons, both pass outs of IIT Mumbai. He is a son of Brigadier Vasant Sathe who stays in Nagpur along with his wife. His brother, Capt Vikas, was also an Armyman who laid his life while serving in the Jammu region.

A soldier lays his life to save the lives of his countrymen.
It reminds me of a poem by a soldier :

If I die in a war zone,
Box me up & send me home

Put my medals on my chest,
Tell my Mom I did the best

Tell my Dad not to bow,
He won't get tension from me now,

Tell my brother to study perfectly,
Keys of my bike will be his permanently

Tell my Sis not to be upset,
Her Bro will not rise after this sunset

And tell my love not to cry,
"Because I am a soldier Born to Die...."

... Nilesh Sathe

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