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Air India Express crash: Mumbai pilot, Deepak Sathe, was an ex-IAF officer


(This story originally appeared in on Aug 08, 2020)

MUMBAI: Commanding pilot Deepak V Sathe, 59, who is believed to have died on the spot, was a former Indian Air Force officer.

Sathe lived in Mumbai’s Powai with his wife Sushma and two sons. His older son Shantanu got married on March 8, days before the lockdown began. Shantanu works in the USA while Sathe’s younger son Dhananjay is employed with a corporate firm in Bengaluru.

A neighbour said, “Sathe and I were squadron mates in the IAF, flying MiG-21s in the 1980s during our bachelor days. We have not received an official confirmation from Air India Express (about his condition). We fear the worst although we have not lost hope as yet. His wife Sushma is a strong lady and is quite composed. We are making arrangements for her to travel to Kozhikode on Saturday.”

The family originally hails from the Konkan although his parents later moved to Nagpur. Sathe was a wing commander in the IAF from where he retired and joined Air India about 10 years ago. In fact his late father and brother were Army officers. He flew the Airbus 310 for AI before moving on to Air India Express on Boeing 737.

He had a passion for flying, said a distant relative who is a senior lawyer.

Sathe studied in Cambrian Hall School, Dehradun. Old school friends who are also from the defence forces, called up his home to pay their condolences.

Meanwhile in Pune, former IAF vice chief, Air Marshal Bhushan Gokhale, said, “It is very unfortunate to lose a brilliant officer in this manner.” Sathe was from the 58th course of the National Defence Academy (NDA). “He passed out from the Air Force Academy with a Sword of Honour in June 1981. He was a fighter pilot and served as a test pilot in the IAF. He was an excellent squash player too,” he said.

Gokhale, who investigated the 2010 Mangaluru plane crash in which 158 passengers were killed, said, “The accumulation of rainwater on the runway surface in the rainy season is the riskiest thing for any pilot. There is a standard operating procedure set up by DGCA for clearing water from the runway. The inquiry panel will check this aspect during the investigation.”

He said, “The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder of the aircraft must be in a good condition as there was no fire in the aircraft. These two will give the exact information about the aircraft and the conversation between the main pilot and the co-pilot. This will give the real-time information of the aircraft at the time of the accident.”

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