In one of the worst air disasters witnessed in Kerala, an Air India Express flight, returning from Dubai under the Vande Bharat mission, skidded off the runway at the 'table-top' Calicut Airport and plunged 35 feet into the valley below, as it landed on its second attempt amid heavy rain on Friday.
Captain Deepak V Sathe, a former Indian Air Force officer who flew the MiG-21 fighter aircraft with 17 Squadron (Golden Arrows) in Ambala, was one of the pilots of this ill-fated flight that saw at least 17 dead and scored injured.
An alumnus of the National Defence Academy (NDA) in Pune, Sathe was a recipient of the Academy's Sword of Honour in June 1981 before he joined the Indian Air Force (IAF) as a fighter pilot. His friends here remember him to be an excellent squash player.
His squadron saw action in the 1999 Kargil war and has been recently resurrected with the induction of multi-role Rafale jet fighters, built by France's Dassault. He became a Squadron Leader in 1992 and retired as a Wing Commander on June 30, 2003.
Sathe served as a test pilot at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Sathe, who had also served as an instructor at the Air Force Training Academy, had taken premature retirement from the IAF, shifting to civilian flying and joined Air India.
A resident of Powai in Mumbai, Sathe had a 30-year long and accident-free flying record, including around 18 years with Air India.
According to local residents, he is survived by two sons, one of whom lives in Bengaluru while the other is in the US. They are expected to reach Kerala soon.