Captain Deepak Sathe, Commander of Ill-fated Air India Flight, Was a Decorated Ex-IAF Fighter Pilot

·1 min read

Capt Deepak Sathe, pilot of the Air India Express flight who died after the plane crashed at Kerala's Kozhikode airport on Friday, was an alumnus of the National Defence Academy (NDA).

Sathe was an ex-Wing Commander of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and had served at the force's flight testing establishment.

At least 18 people, including both pilots, were killed and 123 injured after an Air India Express plane with more than 190 onboard skidded off the runway on Friday at the Karipur airport in Kozhikode in Kerala.

"Unfortunately the pilots have passed away and we are in touch with their families in grief," said an Air India Express statement released after midnight.

"Capt Deepak V Sathe was from 58th course of National Defence Academy, Pune. He was from Juliet Squadron," Air Marshal Bhushan Gokhale (Retd) told news agency PTI.

"Sathe passed out from Air Force Academy with Sword of Honour in June 1981 and was a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force," he added.

Sathe was also an excellent squash player, he recollected.

The plane, part of the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indian nationals from overseas during the Covid-19 lockdown, skidded off the tabletop runway and fell into a 35-feet deep valley, splitting into two portions.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said he is deeply "anguished and distressed" at the accident and that relief teams from Air India and Airports Authority of India (AAI) have been dispatched from Delhi and Mumbai.

"All efforts are being made to help passengers. A formal enquiry will be conducted by AAIB (Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau)," he said on Twitter.

(With inputs from PTI)