Bengaluru, Jan 26: Two Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter pilots have been awarded the prestigious Vayu Sena Medal, Gallantry, as India celebrates 67th Republic Day.
The recipients, Wing Commander Nirmal Kumar Bakshi and Wing Commander Rajiv Dobhal, are Mi-17 V5 helicopter pilots.
According to IAF Spokesperson, Wg Cdr Bakshi was chosen for the award for the courageous missions while undertaking relief operations in Nepal, which was severely hit by an earthquake last year.
"The Nepalese officials rushed to Wg Cdr Bakshi after on May 12 after a second earthquake hit with information of different locations where grievously injured causalities were reported. Bakshi got airborne immediately, followed up with a precise plan in air, addressing the criticality and reached the respective areas," says an IAF Spokesperson.
Wg Cdr Bakshi is commanding a frontline Mi-17 V5 unit January 27, 2015.
IAF says undeterred by the setting sun and low visibility conditions, Wg Cdr Bakshi courageously pressed on with the rescue and skillfully brought down the helicopter amongst obstructions. He maintained the helicopter rock steady and light on wheels to avoid a possible land slide.
The evacuation spots provided little or no margin for error that called for courage and professionalism of the highest order. Displaying both, Wg Cdr Bakshi evacuated nine serious casualties, including four children from different locations in the shortest possible time.
IAF says the mission was well appreciated and boosted the morale of the rescue teams to a new high. Apart from this courageous mission, he flew 55 hours in 78 sorties in the region.
Spanish rescue team evacuated under hostile conditions
Wing Commander Rajiv Dobhal, who is commanding a front line Mi-17 V5 Unit since May 12, 20914, was tasked to participate in Operation Maitri in Nepal last year. He got airborne and positioned at Gorakhpur in difficult weather conditions and proceeded to Kathmandu.
According to IAF, Wg Cdr Dobhal flew 176 sorties, undertaking several demanding missions and rescuing numerous survivors. "The most noteworthy was the rescue of 95 stranded Indian mountaineers from Lukla - one of the most dangerous airfields in the world," says IAF.
Later, Wg Cdr Dobhal was tasked with the evacuation of a Spanish rescue team from Langthang village at an altitude of 12,5000 feet on May 5. On landing at Langthang, he found that the rescue team had moved away and the situation started becoming critical due to onset of a hailstorm and deteriorating light conditions.
IAF says after thoroughly assessing the risk involved, the pilot decided to search for the team.
"With the weather close at heels, he flew along the valley bottom and finally spotted the team 10 km away. Displaying utmost professionalism, he skillfully maneuvered his helicopter to land on a restricted field and rescued the Spanish team," says IAF.
As the helicopter exited the valley, the entire area was engulfed by hailstorm.