PRESIDENT CONFERS VAYU SENA MEDAL (GALLANTRY) TO GROUP CAPTAIN SUBHASH SINGH RAO, FLYING (PILOT)
National Defence Bureau,
New Delhi, 14 August 2017
On 10 Oct 2016, Wing Commander (Now Group Captain) Subhash Singh Rao, who was posted in a MiG-21 (Bis) Sqn as Flight Commander, was detailed for an Air Test sortie. After an uneventful sortie, when he came in for landing, he was informed that the starboard main wheel of his aircraft was misaligned. This abnormality, a serious defect, would have resulted in pilot abandoning the aircraft through ejection. This potentially hazardous situation would have resulted in total loss of the aircraft, decapitating injuries to pilot as well as loss of property on ground. The situation was averted due to the timely decision taken by Wing Commander Subhash Singh Rao. In a very short time he was able to correctly assess the situation at hand and correlate the emergency with a similar incident. He exercised extreme caution and displayed precision flying of the highest degree and took a courageous decision to execute the landing of the aircraft under stress. On landing, the wheel of the aircraft failed and the aircraft started going off the runway. Wing Commander Subhash Singh Rao displayed superior skills in maintaining control of the aircraft and stopped the aircraft on the runway, thereby saving the aircraft.
Even under a situation of considerable duress, Wing Commander (Now Group Captain) Rao maintained a cool and calm composure. He was able to communicate his chain of thoughts to the personnel on ground which further aided in the safe recovery of the aircraft without creating panic. Displaying exceptional courage, Wg Cdr Rao was able to make an extremely well executed landing of the aircraft. He was able to prevent the loss of one valuable fighter aircraft while at the same time ensuring that there was no loss of life and property on ground to any civil or military infrastructure.
For this act of exceptional courage, tenacity and valour beyond the call of duty shown for safely recovering a stricken aircraft, Wing Commander (Now Group Captain) Subhash Singh Rao is awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).
PRESIDENT CONFERS VAYU SENA MEDAL (GALLANTRY) TO WING COMMANDER RAVINDER AHLAWAT, FLYING (PILOT)
On 26 Jul 16, Wg Cdr Ravinder Ahlawat was authorized to carry out a ‘Range Instructional Technique’ (RIT) sortie over Pokharan Range in Mirage 2000 Trainer aircraft as the captain of the aircraft, occupying the front cockpit. While carrying out “Pull Up Attack” circuit, at 500 ft above ground level at high speeds and in a turn, the aircraft experienced a Bird Hit. The severity of the impact shattered the canopy perspex completely and the bird hit Wg Cdr Ahlawat, damaging his helmet, breaking his visor and injuring his face, neck, arms and chest resulting in profuse bleeding and nearly incapacitating him. The bird also broke the glass separator between the front and the rear cockpit as well. The impact also damaged the front pilot ejection system.
Due to the injuries, blood streaming down his face and bird remains, Wg Cdr Ahlawat had limited vision available from his left eye only. Despite the nature of his injuries, shock of impact, high wind blast and minimal reaction time since the aircraft was flying at low level, he took all the emergency actions correctly to save the aircraft and people of a village in close vicinity of the Pokharan range. During recovery, the rear pilot could not see the runway due to the perspex being obscured. Without the front pilot taking over and landing, the aircraft would have to be abandoned. There were significant chances of ejection system failure due to damage to the same. Displaying gallantry and upholding the virtues of “service-before-self”, Wg Cdr Ahlawat used his one hand to open his left eye, took over the controls with the other hand and despite incapacitating injuries, limited binocular vision and with the canopy perspex blown off, he executed a safe landing on the nearest runway of an Air Force Base which resulted in saving of an expensive national asset and lives on ground.
For this act of gallantry, Wing Commander Ravinder Ahlawat is awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).
Shailesh Kumar is an independent journalist with over 17 years of experience in crime, political and defence reporting for leading media brands including Star News, India TV and NewsX. He is the founder editor of defence and security news portal, National Defence.