Lone survivor of TN chopper crash a decorated IAF pilot

Lone survivor of Mi17V5 helicopter crash is decorated IAF pilot who saved an LCA Tejas

Varun Singh was conferred with the Shaurya Chakra for saving not only the Tejas, but civilians on the ground

Group Captain Varun Singh. Credit: Special arrangement

The lone survivor of the Mi17V5 helicopter crash is a decorated Indian Air Force fighter pilot, who is now battling for his life at the military hospital at Wellington.

Group Captain Varun Singh, injured severely in Wednesday’s military chopper crash, was awarded Shaurya Chakra on this year’s Independence Day for saving his LCA Tejas fighter aircraft during an aerial emergency in 2020. He was a Wing Commander at that point of time.

A pilot in a Light Combat Aircraft Squadron, he was flying a system check sortie in the LCA after major rectification of the Flight Control System and pressurisation system (life support environment control system). During the sortie, the cockpit pressurisation failed at high altitude.

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He correctly identified the failure and initiated a descent to lower altitude for landing. While descending, the Flight Control System failed and led to total loss of control of the aircraft. This was an unprecedented catastrophic failure that had never occurred. There was a rapid loss of altitude with the aircraft pitching up and down viciously going to the extremities of G limits.

Despite being in extreme physical and mental stress in an extremely life-threatening situation, he maintained exemplary composure and regained control of the aircraft, thereby exhibiting exceptional flying skills. Soon thereafter, at about 10,000 feet, the aircraft again experienced total loss of control with vicious manoeuvring and uncontrollable pitching.

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Under such a scenario, even though the pilot was at liberty to abandon the aircraft, Singh displayed extraordinary courage and skill to safely land the fighter aircraft despite the potential threat to his own life. He went beyond the call of duty and landed the aircraft taking calculated risks, the IAF had stated in the citation.

As he was able to land the aircraft, it allowed the engineers to carry out an accurate analysis of the fault on the indigenously designed fighter and further institution of preventive measures against recurrence.

Due to his high order of professionalism, composure and quick decision making, even at the peril to his life, he not only averted the loss of an LCA, but also safeguarded civilian property and population on ground. For such an exceptional act of gallantry, he was conferred with the Shaurya Chakra.

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