Pilot of ill-fated Air India Express plane was ‘Sword of Honour’ winner

Was part of squadrons now flying French Mirage-2000 and Rafale fighters

Pilot of ill-fated Air India Express plane was ‘Sword of Honour’ winner

Deepak Sathe. Tribune photo

Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, August 7

Deepak Vasant Sathe, the captain of the ill-fated Air India Express Boeing 737 aircraft that crashed at Kozhikode on Friday, had bagged the coveted ‘Sword of Honour’ on passing out from the Air Force Academy.

At present, he was part of the government’s Vande Bharat Mission, engaged in evacuating Indian nationals stranded overseas due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IAF officers known to him said.

Hailing from a defence family, he was part of squadrons now flying French Mirage-2000 and Rafale fighters and his service brought him to air bases located in this part of the country. 

The former MiG-21 fighter pilot belonged to the 58th Course of the National Defence Academy, Kharakvasla, where he was a gold medalist. Thereafter, he proceeded to the Air Force Academy, Dundigal, and was part of the 127th Pilot’s Course, where he was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’ for topping the course.

Wing Commander Sathe had also served as a test pilot with the Air Force Systems and Testing Establishment, Bengaluru, during his stint with the Air Force. He was commissioned in June 1981 and took premature retirement in 2003 following which he entered the civil aviation sector with Air India.

During the earlier days of his career, he served with No.7 Squadron, the Battle Axes, which was based in Chandigarh from 1973 to 1985, before it moved to Gwalior and was re-equipped with the Mirage 2000.

Air Force sources said that he had also served with No.17 Squadron, the Golden Arrows, which has recently been re-commissioned at Ambala with the IAF’s latest acquisition, the Rafale fighter jet.

According to sources, Sathe was very experienced on the Boeing 737 aircraft, which he was flying with the national flag carrier for the past about 17 years. Earlier, he had also flown the Airbus A-310.

Hailing from a defence family, he leaves behind a wife and two sons, both of whom are alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai. His father is a retired Brigadier settled at Nagpur, while his brother, Capt Vikas Sathe who died in the line of duty in Jammu and Kashmir, according to a post on social media by his relative. 

 

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