Helicopter Pilot Dhillon, Who Saved Many In Arunachal, Flew Over Toughest Terrain

YB WEB DESK. Dated: 7/9/2017 8:09:56 PM

Wing Commander Mandeep Singh Dhillon, who died in a helicopter crash in Arunachal Pradesh while rescuing people after a landslide last week, was an avid long-distance runner. His friends said he was among the best helicopter pilots of the Indian Air Force or IAF. Now, there is absolute gloom at the 115th Helicopter Unit at the IAF's airbase in Tezpur, Assam.

Wing Commander Dhillon and his co-pilot Flight Lieutenant PK Singh were tasked to rescue people stranded in landslide-hit Sagalee village at Arunachal Pradesh's Papum Pare district. The Arunachal Pradesh government had sought IAF's help to rescue the people.

Along with a flight engineer and a policeman from Arunachal Pradesh, Wing Commander Dhillon and Flight Lieutenant Singh flew to Sagalee in the Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv. Despite the weather turning bad, they rescued 160 people in five sorties from Sagalee to Naharlagun.

On the sixth sortie to Sagalee village, the weather worsened so much that they decided not to risk civilians' lives and did not take people on board. Within minutes after taking off from the village, the ground station lost contact with them.

All the three crew members of the IAF helicopter and the Arunachal Police official died in the crash.

Wing Commander Dhillon's last rites were performed in Tezpur today. Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu expressed shock over the crash. "The brave personnel were on a mission to rescue people stranded due to floods by airlifting them to safer locations. Hundreds of people rescued by the IAF couldn't even thank enough when this tragedy struck like a bolt from nowhere. They are shattered by the news and mourn the death of their saviours," Mr Khandu said.

The helicopter unit in Tezpur is stationed to secure the border with China in western Arunachal Pradesh, and to carry out rescue missions in rough terrain.

"Wing Commander Dhillon has 18 years of experience. He has flown in many difficult terrains and has been part of challenging missions. He was arguably one of the finest helicopter pilots. From icy mountains to the jungles of Arunachal Pradesh, he volunteered to go on any mission," said a senior IAF officer who asked not to be named.

An alumnus of the Rashtriya Indian Military College in Dehradun and the National Defence Academy or NDA, Wing Commander Dhillon had also worked as an instructor at the NDA. He is survived by his wife, daughter and son.


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