On 24 Dec 18 at 1040 hrs Western Air Command of Indian Air force launched two Cheetah helicopters, of the Udhampur based unit “HOVERING HAWKS” to carry out casualty evacuation from Chanderkot helipad on a short notice. As per initial information received a civil bus on move from Badgam to Kanpur fell into the valley near Ramban which led to several critical casualties. At 1045 hrs, 02 heptrs and 02 set of crew were standby to takeoff from Udhampur to Chanderkot helipad where the casualties were initially evacuated. On getting a go ahead for one heptr at 1050 hrs, Wg Cdr V Mehta as captain with co-pilot Arunima Vidhate got airborne from Udhampur. Meanwhile after ascertaining the requirement, on the call of Wg Cdr V Mehta, second heptr got airborne from Udhampur with SqnLdr SK Prasad as captain and Flt Lt Siddhant Yadav as co-pilot.
First heptr landed at Chanderkot Helipad at 1125 hrs and picked up 03 critically injured Jawans of ITBP who were amongst the 09 critically injured travelling in fateful bus. The other heptr landed at 1225 hrs and picked 02 remaining critical Jawans along with medical attendant. 04 Casualties were picked up by civil helicopter. “Due to power station and several microwave towers on eastern side of helipad, heptrs had to carry out one sided approaches and take offs with thorough traffic coordination with civil helicopters. Additionally, the site had limited manoeuvring space” said the mission leader and captain of the lead aircraft Wg Cdr Vishal Mehta.
Both the heptrs continued to Jammu airport, where the ambulance was ready to attend the casualty. The casualties suffered serious injuries which included facial/head injuries, fractured leg and major bruises on arms. Although they had been recovered from the accident site to Ramban DH their situation was highly critical and speedy evacuation to a better medical facility was the only lifesaving measure available.
The crew of HOVERING HAWKS executed the mission with extreme professionalism keeping up the highest traditions of the IAF.