Amidst a flood rescue operation in Arunachal Pradesh, an Air Warrior lost his life, but not before rescuing 169 stranded individuals.
Wing Commander Mandeep Singh Dhillon, who was the commanding officer of 115 Helicopter Unit, Tezpur, had been part of the team that had already finished five sorties of rescue operations despite adverse weather and extreme flying conditions before heading back for the sixth and the final sortie.
A warm and outgoing person, Wing Commander Dhillon had over 18 years of experience, flying above the toughest hilly terrains and even forest covers.
The entire neighbourhood of Officers’ Colony, Patiala, is numbed with shock and grief upon losing one of their most celebrated neighbours.
“We are deeply hurt and shocked by the news. It is an irreparable loss. He was to achieve great success in the IAF given his intelligence and young age. This unfortunate incident has cut the dream short”, H S Puri, a retired engineer from the Military Engineering Service (MES) and Dhillon’s neighbour, told TOI.
Hailing from a family of defence personnel and described as a thorough gentleman, Wing Commander Dhillon carried the tag of being a daredevil officer who loved flying and pursed the passion with utmost sincerity.
After completing his schooling from the prestigious Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) in Dehradun, Wing Commander Dhillon’s next stop was National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla where he was selected as an Air Force cadet and joined Foxtrot Squadron.
The IAF officer was also known to be a long distance runner who won almost every race that he was part of.
Not only has the country lost a brave air warrior who was willing to gamble his own life to rescue helpless and stranded fellow countrymen, a generation of young officers and cadets will never know the daredevil officer that Wing Commander Mandeep Singh Dhillon was.
The Tezpur Air Force base bid a final goodbye to one of India’s best helicopter pilots accompanied with state honours on Saturday. He is survived by his father, mother, wife, and two children.