Srinagar: Hazik Mushtaq Beigh and his friends were trekking in the Kolahai Glacier area when the team fell into a crevasse. Two of the team were fatally injured. Hazik suffered injuries that required him to be immediately evacuated to a medical facility.

The Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force (IAF) flew to the rescue of the trekkers. It launched two Cheetah helicopters of the Udhampur-based Hovering Hawks unit which happened to be at Srinagar at that point.

Two choppers were necessary considering the inhospitable terrain and the poor weather conditions in the area. The leader of Falcon formation was Wing Commander Vishal Mehta with Flight Lieutenant Mittal as the co-pilot.

The plan was to winch the injured trekkers into the helicopter as no suitable landing site was available.

Upon reaching the site, Wing Commander Mehta realised that Hazik could not be winched due to serious injuries, so both helicopters flew to Awantipur and removed the side doors, picked up a guide en route from Lidru and reached the spot again. The weather during the entire period was extremely inclement. Had it been any worse, it would not have been possible for the helicopters to undertake the rescue mission.

The 12,000-feet elevation of the place and small size of the helicopters added to the piloting difficulties. The captain of the lead aircraft Wing Commander Mehta decided to find a small spot of flat land nearby for touchdown.

Having picked up Hazik, both helicopters flew back to base.

“The spot was such that it did not offer any place to land. We had established that winching the casualty was out of question, hence only one option was left. I told my wingman to orbit overhead while I tried to land on a small flat land. The landing called upon my entire experience and training as a helicopter pilot. It was immensely satisfying when Hazik was saved,” said Wing Commander Mehta.