Co-pilot in Air India crash Akhilesh Kumar leaves behind pregnant wife

Akhilesh Kumar was part of the first Air India Express flight under the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indians from Dubai to Kozhikode.
Co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar who died in the Air India Express flight crash at Karipur airport in Kerala's Kozhikode
Co-pilot Akhilesh Kumar who died in the Air India Express flight crash at Karipur airport in Kerala's Kozhikode
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On May 8, 2020, pilot Akhilesh Kumar was welcomed to Karipur Airport in Kozhikode with loud applause – a hero’s welcome. He was part of an Air India Express plane crew which was the first repatriation flight under the Vande Bharat Mission to land in Kozhikode, bringing back several stranded Indians in Dubai. Three months later, on August 7, when an Air India Express flight that Akhilesh co-piloted touched down in Kozhikode, India mourned for him.

Akhilesh was the co-pilot of the ill-fated Air India Express 1344 flight, which overshot the tabletop runway of the Calicut International Airport, plunged 30 feet below and crashed, splitting the aircraft into two. The 32-year-old pilot is among the 18 passengers who died in the crash on Friday.

Akhilesh, along with the flight Commander Captain Deepak Sathe, who also died in the crash, tried to safely land the flight on the runway. After circling the airport twice, they attempted to land the aircraft, but the disaster could not be averted. The aircraft split near the cockpit area. While the official details of what went wrong are awaited, many survivors have pointed out that the pilots did manage to save over 170 lives, calling them 'heroes in uniform'.

According to reports, Akhilesh Kumar is a native of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh. He is survived by his wife Megha, who is pregnant. The couple got married in December 2017. He is also survived by two younger brothers, a sister and his parents. He had visited Mathura once before the lockdown.

Akhilesh started flying with Air India in 2017. He was the first officer of the Air India Express flight from Kozhikode-Dubai-Kozhikode in May, which was part of the first phase of the Vande Bharat Mission.

He had co-piloted the flight with Commander Captain Michael Saldanha, who recounted Akhilesh as a sincere pilot. “We had only interacted with each other on that flight. He was a junior and I believe it was his second monsoon flight. But, he was up-to-date with the required knowledge of the aircraft. In fact, he did a good job landing the flight in Dubai. We could not interact much as per the COVID-19 protocols,” Captain Michael told TNM.

For many pilots, Akhilesh was Akhil, a pilot who helped them understand the technical details effectively.

Condoling his untimely deaths of the pilots, a pilot by the name Anjan took to Twitter to recall how Akhilesh helped him. “A few years ago, a very passionate Akhilesh Kumar (Akhil for us) pilot on right IX1344 helped us understand Technical General. Till date, my friend and I remember Stability (neutral, stable, unstable) with his revolving chair example. You are dearly missed, tailwinds to both of you,” he wrote. 

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