Wing Commander Deepak Vasant Sathe, the captain of the ill-fated aircraft that crashed at Calicut on Friday, was a top-notch Indian Air Force fighter who learnt his trade flying the Soviet-origin MiG-21 fighter planes during his 22-year IAF career, people who have known him said.
Sathe, 59, was awarded the coveted “sword of honour” (a recognition of his skills) when he graduated from the Air Force Academy at Dundigal near Hyderabad in June 1981. The former IAF fighter, an alumnus of the prestigious National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, was also an accomplished test pilot.
“This is sad. Sathe was a comrade in arms at the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment STE (IAF’s flight testing establishment) with me. RIP Tester. The call signs of all test pilots have the ‘Tester’ prefix,” said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.
Sathe joined the air force in June 1981 and quit the IAF prematurely in June 2003, said another ex-IAF pilot who knew him.
“He was an extremely skilled pilot who loved flying. He was a mentor to many young pilots,” he said.