For members of the Indian armed services, to display extraordinary courage against all odds is a rather ordinary occurrence. And yet, there are still stories of bravery that are so awe-inspiring that they manage to capture the imagination of the collective public.
One such account belongs to Squadron Leader Rijul Sharma of the Indian Air Force, who was awarded the Vayu Sena Award (Gallantry) by the Indian government in recognition of his valour and sheer grit. On June 1, 2016, he was piloting a MiG 29 aircraft at supersonic speeds at a height of 10 km.
He was 110 km away from his base when the canopy perspex (which is the enclosure over the cockpit) broke and shattered, and in the process also hit his shoulder.
Photo source: Twitter
At this point, he was not only injured but was also exposed to temperatures of -28 degree Celsius, which could have led to hypoxia. He also had to contend with extreme winds owing to the fact he had been piloting at roughly 1,200-1,300 kmph. But instead of injecting and saving himself, Sharma decided that he would somehow try and land the plane safely in such a way that there was no accidental loss of life on ground.
He brought the plane down to an altitude of 3 km and also reduced the speed of the plane as best as he could. In order to make sure that there would be no causalities, he also avoided any areas that would have oil installations and heavy population. As a result of his quick thinking, he was able to land his aircraft with next to no collateral damage.
The Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) is an award given during peacetime to those in the armed forces for a job done well done. Given the goosebumps-inducing account of the Squadron Leader, we would say it is one that is well deserved by Rijul Sharma.