Captain Deepak Sathe, the pilot of the Air India Express flight who died along with 17 others after the plane crashed in Kerala's Kozhikode airport, had survived an air crash in the early 1990s when he was in the Indian Air Force, his cousin has said. He was hospitalised for six months then, his cousin said.
Mr Sathe had suffered multiple injuries on his skull in that incident, but due to his "strong willpower and passion" he cleared the test and started flying again, the pilot's cousin said.
The Air India Express flight from Dubai with 190 on board overshot the tabletop runway in Kozhikode airport on Friday night while landing in heavy rain, fell into a valley 35 feet below and broke in two.
Mr Sathe, 58, who was the pilot-in-command and his co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar were among those who died in the crash.
Mr Sathe was a former Wing Commander of the IAF and had served at the IAF's flight testing establishment. His cousin, Nilesh Sathe, said in a post on Facebook: "It's hard to believe that Deepak Sathe, my friend more than my cousin, is no more. He was pilot of Air India Express carrying passengers from Dubai in Vande Bharat Mission, which skidded off the runway at Kozhikode International Airport yesterday night."
"Deepak was an experienced aerial operator with 36 years of flying experience. A passout of NDA, topper in the 58th course and an awardee of Sword of Honour, Deepak served the Indian Air Force for 21 years before joining as a commercial pilot with Air India in 2005. He called me just a week before and was jovial, as always," Nilesh Sathe wrote on Facebook.
"When I asked him about the Vande Bharat Mission, he was proud of bringing back our countrymen from Arab countries. I asked him, 'Deepak, do you carry empty aircraft since those countries are not allowing entry of passengers?' He had replied, 'Oh, No. We carry fruits, vegetables, medicines etc to these countries and never the aircraft flies to these countries empty.' That was my last conversation with him," the pilot's cousin said.
"He survived in air crash in early nineties when he was in the Air Force. He was hospitalised for 6 months for multiple skull injuries and nobody thought that he would fly again. But his strong willpower and love for flying made him clear the test again. It was a miracle," Nilesh Sathe said.
According to him, Mr Sathe is survived by his wife and two sons, both graduates of IIT Bombay. Mr Sathe was the son of Brigadier Vasant Sathe, who lives in Nagpur along with his wife. His brother, Captain Vikas, was a soldier who laid his life for India while serving in Jammu, Nilesh Sathe said.