Captain Deepak Vasanth Sathe was among the 18 people who died after an Air India Express flight from Dubai crashlanded at Kozhikode airport in Kerala on Friday. Sathe, 60, was a former Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and had served with its flight testing wing before taking to commercial flying.
He was an alumnus of the 58th course of the National Defence Academy (NDA) in Pune, and was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’ at the Air Force Academy (AFA) in Dundigal.
Former Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Bhushan Gokhale (Retd) told The Indian Express, “Deepak V Sathe was an alumnus of the 58th course of the NDA. He had passed out the AFA with the prestigious Sword of Honour. He served as a fighter pilot in the IAF and was a test pilot and a Qualified Flying Instructor. He was a brilliant officer and an excellent squash player.” (Follow Kerala flight crash live updates)
Sathe had passed out of the NDA in 1980 and after one year of pre-commissioning training at the AFA he was commissioned into the IAF in 1981.
Sathe, a resident of Powai in Mumbai, was not new to landing on the tabletop runway at Kozhikode, and had flown to the city many times.
On Friday, records show he attempted to land the aircraft several times. Due to incessant rains, he steered the aircraft around the airport twice before managing to touch down, but it skidded off the runway due to hydroplaning — when a layer of water forms on the surface, reducing friction with the brakes of a vehicle. The aircraft then nosedived into a valley 35 feet below, and split into two.
The Vande Bharat flight, IX-1344, had 190 people on board, including 10 children and six crew members. Among the dead was First Officer Akhilesh Kumar. Air India Saturday confirmed that four crew members were safe, and out of danger.
The BJP’s National General Secretary, B L Santhosh Saturday claimed Sathe managed to save many lives in the accident by “switching off the engine” of the aircraft.
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