Home
Introduction
Aim & Objectives
Organizational Setup
Operational Bases
Major Projects
Achievements
Plan/Budget
Orders/Circulars/Career
Who's Who
Photo Gallery
JK RTI
Tenders
Contact Us
 

RESCUE OF FLOOD VICTIMS : BY BELL- 407  HELICOPTER

             The incessant rains that began on 01 Sept in Jammu & Kashmir and continued till 07th Sept resulted in unprecedented floods affecting the entire State. The deluge led to the river Jhelum bursting its banks on the night of 06th Sept and flooded the State Capital Srinagar.  The entire State Machinery with its personnel, infrastructure and equipment was inundated.

20140907_132734.jpg

             AERIAL VIEW OF SRINAGAR ON 06 SEPT

          On instructions from Chief Minister asking the Civil Aviation Dept to see how the helicopters could be utilised in response to this calamity. On getting a green signal Gp Capt Indranil Bhattacharya & Gp Capt Samir Kaul immediately set to work. After due deliberation it was decided that the Bell helicopter would be modified and rescue of marooned victims attempted. As the city was completely submerged there was no place for the Helicopter to land. Also, given the mob-like frenzy amongst the victims it was not possible to descend low over any gathering as it would have surely resulted in injury to the people. After considering many options one door was removed and a SSG man selected to assist in the envisaged mission. The Plan was to bring the helicopter to low hover near the victims on the roof tops and pull them up physically, if possible or drop food packets (Water, Milk, Banana & Biscuits). Constable Javaid Bhat (SSG) was thoroughly briefed and dry drills carried out on the helicopter till the team became confident of executing the mission.

20140911_110648.jpg

BELL 407 CONFIGURED WITH DOOR REMOVED AND HELPER STRAPPED UP

            The Pilots, Gp Capts Bhattacharya & Kaul along with helper Ct Javaid after thorough briefing set out to undertake the mission. The crew had to innovate and think each situation through. The Air Force training, years of flying in varied roles and exceptional skills had to be called upon to rescue victims from atop rooftops.

    IMG_20140909_143145.jpg            

            The areas from where rescue mission was carried out were primarily, the localities of Indranagar, Rajbagh, Shivpura, Tulsi bagh, Gogji bagh, area adjoining Civil Secretariat, Batmaloo and Hotel Management training institute (Rajbagh) etc. The victims rescued comprised women, children, elderly and tourists. In a colossal effort testing man & machine, over the four day period from 08 to 11 Sept, 149 sorties (To & From) were flown, wherein, 261 victims were pulled to safety from rooftops by the Bell helicopter. This is an unprecedented act of daring, gallantry, exceptional skill and complete dedication to rescue the victims of this calamity.

20140907_132713.jpg

                        AERIAL VIEW OF THE AREA OF RESCUE, SRINAGAR CITY

            The pilots had to use all their skill, judgement, airmanship, physical and mental faculties to take on this challenge. The helicopter had to be manoeuvred over rooftops contending with hazards to helicopters like steeply slanting & conical roofs, antennae, tall poles & pipes, large water tanks, High Tension wires & Pylons, Mobile & other towers, Cables strung across buildings and very tall trees.

            In subsequent sorties, the helicopter carried emergency water & food (Bananas, biscuits & Milk) from the civil airport and literally dropped them in the hands of the victims and during the return, picked up people from the rooftops, thereby enhancing the efficiency of these rescue missions.

IMG_20140909_143045.jpg

                 VICTIMS BEING RESCUED FROM ROOFTOPS

There were a number of cases of families that were marooned that were re-united over the course of two/ three days, being rescued by this single helicopter. In one unique case, after all family members were picked up from one rooftop in two sorties the grown up son refused to be rescued, as he wanted to stay back & safeguard his family home. This family literally broke down and refused to leave the airfield. However, the next morning while carrying out rescue in the vicinity, pilots saw the young man frantically waving out to be rescued. He was eventually picked up and re-united with his hysteric family. Many similar events occurred in this short span of time which felt like weeks.

 

 

                  

IMG_20140909_142951.jpg

           VICTIMS TRYING TO REACH THE HELICOPTER FROM ROOFTOPS

            The pilots flew with complete disregard to personal comfort, rest and inherent personal safety issues. Pilots had to abandon the Helipad complex as more than 12000 stranded citizens were provided shelter, food & succour at the Helipad till eventually being flown out to Srinagar Airport. There was extraordinary support by the Ground & technical team to keep the machine refuelled, serviced and flying by ensuring quick turn-round.

            For each sortie both pilots had to keep pushing each other to keep all their faculties on highest alert. They displayed exceptional Crew Resource Management in undertaking this arduous task. There were many a close call while manoeuvring the helicopter between the numerous obstructions and fending off desperate victims who literally grabbed onto any part of the helicopter in an attempt to get on board. The biggest motivation was the heartfelt gratitude and thanks expressed by each rescued victim. Their tears, sincere thanks and many a military style salute after exiting the helicopter kept the pilots enthused to go all out to save precious lives.

IMG_20140910_183423.jpg

               VICTIMS BEING GIVEN SHELTER IN THE STATE HANGAR

     The entire team of civil aviation department including Pilots had to live away from their home and operate from the airport hangar without any basic amenities. They even had to eat the food that was scavenged from available leftover bananas & biscuits that they were dropping as there was no food or water available anywhere. People were being flown out from the very area where technicians, ground crew & Pilots were living without any power supply, food or any other support system.

20140908_184033.jpg

                The Bell helicopter was also utilised to transport essential & critical Medical stores to district headquarters to help the medical authorities to attend to critical cases at their locations. This helicopter proved its versatility by flying Government officials to the Airport from makeshift helipads, assess the flood situation by carrying out aerial reconnaissance, survey of the flood channels to provide relief and rescue, create a virtual air-bridge between the State Crisis Management Centre to the Srinagar Airport. This was made possible by the combined & dedicated effort of the technicians, Srinagar ATC controllers, support staff and crew, but most importantly the Pilots & the Machine. The Bell 407 undoubtedly proved its versatility in being able to sustain such an intensive & demanding flying effort.

            The situation demanded precision flying of a very high order, wherein, the helicopter had to be kept in steady hover within inches of the roof tops with no margin for error. Due to the large number of towers, poles, cables and other obstructions, any minor error in judgement and control would have resulted in certain accident. The intense concentration and constant demand on highest skill levels, generated immense pressure on the pilots to execute the task. This flying, sustained over 149 sorties was possible only due to the sheer determination, inner motivation, extreme endurance and drive, well beyond the call of duty by the two pilots.      

            For a non-military, civilian helicopter, not configured with any rescue equipment like winch etc, this act of rescuing 261 victims, over four consecutive days, and that too from rooftops, pulling them physically by hand, may well be an unprecedented achievement anywhere.