New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The Air Indian Express flight from Dubai, skidded off the runway this evening and split into two pieces while landing at Kerala's Kozhikode airport. At least 18 people, including the pilot and co-pilot, have been killed in the tragic mishap. The deceased pilots have been identified as Wing Commander Deepak Vasant Sathe and First Officer Akhilesh Kumar who flew for Air India. The flight was part of the Vande Bharat programme that has been bringing back Indians from abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Winger Commander Sathe was a decorated ex-Indian Air Force Pilot, who had served the force for 22 years. An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Sathe was commissioned into the service in 1981. He retired from Air Force in 2003 as a squadron leader and moved to commercial aircraft flying. Sathe was an accomplished fighter pilot and skilled at operating Boeing 737 commercial flights. According to reports, Sathe was a decorated officer who ranked 58 at the National Defence Academy (NDA) and was also awarded Sword of Honour at the Air Force Academy in Hyderabad

Tributes poured in from all corners for the late pilot and other victims of the mishap

According to the Civil Aviation Ministry, tthere were 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and four cabin crew onboard the aircraft, adding that the flight -- IX 1344 -- continued running to the end of the runway amid heavy rain and "fell down in the valley and broke down in two pieces".

Posted By: Rakesh Kumar Jha