Updated: December 10, 2021 10:50:39 am
A seriously-injured Group Captain Varun Singh, 39, the lone survivor of the helicopter crash in the Nilgiris that killed 13 people including the Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, was transported to the Command Hospital in Bengaluru – partly by road and later by air – on Thursday giving his family a semblance of hope of the survival of the fighter pilot.
“He is in a critical condition and there have been a lot of injuries. The facilities in Bengaluru command hospital is good and we are hoping he would recover and bounce back,” Colonel (retired) K P Singh, Varun’s father, said Thursday. Varun was earlier in a hospital in Wellington near the helicopter crash site at Coonoor.
Col Singh, who lives in Bhopal, said his son had telephoned him a few days prior to the incident. “It was just a normal call where he spoke to me and my wife. The CDS visit to Defence Services Staff College at Wellington was also not decided by then I suppose.”
Akhilesh P Singh, an uncle of Varun Singh, said the family was “praying for his recovery” and that the incident “was utterly shocking for the family”. The uncle, a former Congress MLA from Rudrapur constituency in Uttar Pradesh and the younger brother of KP Singh, said Varun “was a bright student and always wished to serve the forces.”
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“He had a goal at a very young age and he cleared the National Defence Academy (NDA) in his first attempt. We all grew up in a joint family and have a strong connection. It was just his father and his postings that separated us but the roots remained very strong,” Akhilesh said.
Varun, 39, hails from a defence family with his brother serving in the Indian Navy and his father Col (retd) KP Singh a part of the Army Air Defence.
Varun was promoted as group captain recently and posted at the Defence Services Staff College. He is married and has two children.
Varun was awarded the Shaurya Chakra on Independence Day this year for saving his Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas during an aerial emergency on October 12, 2020. His citation said that during a sortie the cockpit pressurization failed at a high altitude without any associated failure warning and Varun, who was a wing commander then, saved the LCA from crashing.
“He correctly identified the failure and initiated a descent to lower altitude for landing. While descending, passing 17,000 feet, three out of four channels of the flight control system failed and led to total loss of control of the aircraft. This was an unprecedented catastrophic failure that had never occurred. There was a rapid loss of altitude while in usual altitude, the aircraft pitched up and down viciously going to the extremities of G limits. He encountered G upto -3.5, which in itself is life endangering with the threat of permanent eye damage,” the citation said.
Varun went beyond the call of duty and landed the aircraft taking calculated risks. “This allowed an accurate analysis of the fault of the fighter. Due to his high order of professionalism, composure and quick decision making even at the peril to his life, he not only averted the loss of a LCA, but also safe guarded civilian property and population on ground,” the citation said.
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