When the mortal remains of first officer Akhilesh Kumar, the co-pilot of the Air India Express flight that crashed in Kozhikode on Friday, arrived at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on Sunday morning, at least 300 pilots from various airlines, other staff and airport employees were in attendance to pay their last respects to the pilot.
Kumar, 32, was co-piloting flight IX-1344 from Dubai to Calicut with 190 people onboard when it overshot the runway at Karipur airport while landing and fell into a 35 feet deep valley. Captain Deepak Vasant Sathe, 58, was the pilot in command of the Boeing737 aircraft that broke into two after crashing, claiming the lives of both the pilots and 16 passengers.
“His body was flown in by an IndiGo flight. It arrived at the Delhi airport at around 2.30 am and was handed over to his colleagues from Air India Express. As many as 250-300 people, mostly pilots from different airlines, all dressed in their uniforms, along with other airline staff and employees from the airport had gathered to pay their last respects to the pilot,” said a pilot who was present in the gathering.
The pilot, who requested anonymity, said it was “very moving to see the camaraderie between the pilots from across the airlines to have gathered voluntarily to bid adieu to their fellow aviator one last time.”
During the gathering that lasted for about an hour on the tarmac of Terminal 2 in Delhi airport, while fellow pilots and others paid their respects to the pilot’s mortal remains, some of his batchmates also said a few words about him.
“He was one of us. It was a very emotional moment. Every one was standing in silence with their heads down and watery eyes. It was not easy to see him depart forever. Captain Sathe and Kumar will always be remembered,” said another officer, who was a part of the gathering.
Kumar’s brother Bhuvnesh and brother-in-law Sanjeev Sharma were also present;