Service No : 22335 F(P)

Date of Birth : October 18, 1968

Last Rank : Flight Lieutenant

Arm/Regt : Indian Air Force

Martyrdom : August 4, 1999

Flight Lieutenant Sanjay Kumar Pandey

Flight Lieutenant Sanjay Kumar Pandey was born on 18 Oct 1968. After completing his graduation he got selected to join the Indian Air Force as an officer. He got commissioned into the Indian Air Force on 20 Feb 1993 at the age of 24 years. He joined the flying stream of the IAF and got trained as a helicopter pilot as part of 3 HSSC courses. By 1999, Flt Lt Sanjay Kumar Pandey had put in around 6 years of service and evolved into a professionally competent helicopter pilot having expertise in various air operations.

Cheetah Helicopter Crash: 04 Aug 1999
During 1999, Flt Lt Sanjay Kumar Pandey was serving with 117 HU, known as "Himalayan Dragons" with its motto of Apatsu Mitram meaning 'A friend in time of need'. The unit was operating the Cheetah Helicopter, a high-performance helicopter designed for operation over a very wide range of weight, center of gravity and altitude conditions. During 1999, based at the Air Force base at Sarsawa in UP, the Squadron under the command of Wg Cdr Rajiv Gupta, was using the Cheetah helicopter as a versatile, multi-role, multi-purpose machine undertaking various operational tasks on a regular basis. Flt Lt Sanjay Kumar Pandey along with captian Sqn Ldr FS Siddiqui was tasked with one such mission on 02 Aug 1999. The assigned task on 02 Aug 1999, was a rescue mission to save two German Nationals, who had got stranded in the hills of Lahul Spiti, in Himachal Pradesh.
On 02 Aug 1999, as planned, Flt Lt Sanjay Kumar Pandey and Sqn Ldr FS Siddiqui took off in their Cheetah SA -315 helicopter for the assigned mission. The rescue operation continued for two days without any success, but on the third day on 04 Aug, the Germans were spotted near Kurgiakh in Zanskar valley of Ladakh. However, while attempting the rescue landing at Kurgiakh, their Cheetah SA -315 helicopter caught fire mid-air owing to a technical snag. Flt Lt Sanjay Kumar Pandey and Sqn Ldr FS Siddiqui did not get adequate time to take any emergency measures and consequently, the chopper crashed. Both pilots could not survive the crash and lost their lives. Flt Lt Sanjay Kumar Pandey was a valiant and committed air warrior, who laid down his life at the age of 31 years in the service of the nation. 
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