New Delhi: In a rare achievement, Indian Air Force (IAF) Group Captain Sandeep Singh Chhabra has completed 1,000 incident-free landings of the Russian-origin heavy-lift IL-76 aircraft at the extremely challenging Leh and Thoise airfields.

According to IAF officials, it requires a high degree of skill and extreme precision to land heavy-lift aircraft at high altitudes of the Leh region.

The IAF pilot on Wednesday completed 1,000 safe landings at the Leh and Thoise airfields, both of which are located at an elevation of 10,000 feet. Both airfields are surrounded by extremely challenging terrains which make them among the toughest in the world for pilots.

Flying planes in such terrains is challenging in itself, but Chhabra is a master of flying mammoth IL-76s designed for airlifting heavy machinery to remote locations. Some of these aircraft are also used as refuelling tankers.

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Commissioned into the transport stream of the IAF on June 13, 1992, Chhabra initially flew the AN-32 in the narrow valleys and advanced landing grounds of the Northeast and the Uttarakhand hills, primarily in para-drop and landing roles.

Subsequently, he flew the IL-78 Mid Air Refuellers and is posted to an IL-78 squadron at present. Chhabra has clocked 8,500 flight hours, of which 5,000 hours have been on IL-76/78 aircraft.

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In addition, the officer is only one among a few who have been cleared for operations at the Leh and Thoise airfields at night. Group Captain Chhabra hails from Dehradun and is an alumnus of the Rashtriya Indian Military College, Dehradun and the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla.