Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A remarkable story of courage and sacrifice...

It was November 4, 1977. A TU 124 passenger jet, of the Indian Air Force's elite communication squadron took off from Palan airport at 5.00 pm. The communications squadron better known as the VIP squadron, is tasked with carrying VIPS from one destination to another. Obvioulsy, the squadron consists of the 'cream' of the IAF, as far as both - 'men' and 'machines are concerned.
The passengers on board this flight were non other than Morarji Desai, the Prime Minister of India, his son - Kantibhai Desai, the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh - Mr. PK Thungon, and the Chief of the Intelligence Bureau - Mr. John Lobo.
The crew of the flight consisted of Wing Commanders Clarence D'Lima and Joginder Singh, Squadron Leaders Mathew Cyriac, VVS Shankar and OP Arora, five in all.
Around the time when the flight reached Jorhat, it developed engine trouble, and lost considerable height. At this point the pilots reached the conclusion that crash landing the plane was imminent and the only hope to save the VIP passengers. With total disregard to their own safety, and demonstrating devotion to duty of the highest order, the pilots decided to crash land the aircraft on its nose. Before that, all the VIP passengers were hurdled out to the rear of the aircraft.
The TU 124, crashed about two and a half hours after it had taken off from Palam Airport. As planned, the nose part of the aircraft was totally destroyed, whereas the rear of the aircraft remained intact.
All VIPs survived, without even minor injuries. Sadly, all the crew members died. Because the plane was deliberately made to nose dive during the crash landing, the crew - by giving up their lives through this courageous and suicidal decision, made sure that the VIP remained unharmed.
As I write this, my memory goes back 25 years ago, when I was in Class XI in School. Wing Commander Clarence D'LIma's wife was a teacher in the School I studied in, and his son, a class mate of my younger brother.
Till sometime after this tragedy, Mrs. D"Lima continued to come to School, on her "Luna" moped as she usually did, till one day she stopped coming....
The sacrifice made by the five officers and fine pilots of the Indian Air Force is exemplary. Its never too late to salute these brave men.
As for the politicians, while Morarji Desai personally owed his own life as well as that of his son, to the five brave pilots, he did not bother to pay a visit to the bereaved familiies, nor did he bother to attend any funeral. A wreath was placed on his behalf, on the coffins carrying the mortal remains of the five brave men.

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