Co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar, who died in the plane crash at Kerala's Kozhikode last night, is survived by his pregnant wife. His cousin Basudev said the delivery is expected in 10-15 days. The devastated family is trying to come to terms with their loss.
Mr Kumar and Captain Deepak Sathe died along with 16 others after the Air India Express flight that they piloted from Dubai broke in two moments after landing at the tabletop runway in Kozhikode.
"He came home for the last time before the coronavirus lockdown," Mr Kumar's cousin Basudev said.
"He was a very humble, polite and well-behaved person. His wife is expecting to deliver their child in the next 15 days. He joined Air India in 2017," Basudev said, adding the couple got married in December 2018.
The co-pilot's father Tulsi Ram said they got a call from some officials about the plane in Kerala last night. "We were initially told that his condition was serious. Later, we were told about his death. His younger brother and brother-in-law have gone to Kerala," Mr Ram said.
The other pilot, Captain Deepak Sathe, had survived an air crash in the early 1990s when he was in the Indian Air Force and was hospitalised for six months, his cousin said. 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... Deepak was an experienced aerial operator with 36 years of flying experience... Deepak served in 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."
The Air India Express Boeing 737 NG carrying 184 people touched down 1 km into the length of the runway at the tabletop airport, sources in the regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have told NDTV.
The aircraft skidded off the runway and fell into a steep slide at the tabletop airport before it broke in two. The plane had been trying to land for some time. It had also rained in the area and other parts of Kerala.
A tabletop runway sits on top of a plateau or hill with one or both ends adjacent to a steep elevation, which drops into a gorge. Such an airport presents a challenging condition for landing.
With inputs from agencies