Service No : IC-54494H
Date of Birth : September 1, 1973
Place of birth : Thalassery(Kerala)
Service : Army
Last Rank : Major
Unit : 7 R&O Flt
Arm/Regt : Army Aviation Corps
Operation : CI & IS Ops
Awards : Sena Medal
Martyrdom : August 15, 2008
Major Padmanabhan KE hailed from Thalassery in Kerala and was born on 01 Sep 1973. Son of a distinguished police officer EN Rammohan (who retired as Director General of the Border Security Force), and Smt KM Prema, he had a sister KE Priyamvada as his sibling. He was inclined to serve in the Armed Forces right from his childhood days and continued to follow his passion while growing up. His dream eventually came true, when he was selected to join the Army after completing his education. He was commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery, the important combat support arm of the Indian Army.
After serving for a few years with his parent Regiment, he got selected for the Army Aviation Corps and was trained as a helicopter pilot. He completed his basic Army Aviation Course from Jhansi and Advance Army Aviation Course from Nashik. By 2008, he had developed into an accomplished helicopter pilot and had been promoted to the rank of Major.
Cheetah Air Operation (Ladakh): 15 Aug 2008
During August 2008, Major Padmanabhan KE was serving with 7 R&O (Recce and Observation) Flight belonging to 666 Army Aviation Sqn. The 7 R&O Flt was operating Cheetah helicopters, a single-engine helicopter, of 1970s vintage and derived from the French Alouette. The Cheetah Helicopter was known to be a high-performance helicopter designed for operation over a very wide range of weight, the center of gravity and altitude conditions. The five-seater Cheetah helicopter was versatile, multi-role, multi-purpose, highly maneuverable, and rugged in construction. It was suitable for commuting, observation, surveillance, logistics support, rescue operations and high-altitude missions. On 15 Aug 2008, Major Padmanabhan KE was tasked with one such air mission along with Major Sunil Ganapathy of 3 R&O Flt as his co-pilot.
On 15 Aug, the crew took off in their Cheetah Helicopter (Z-1894) to carry out the assigned task as per the operational plan. It was an operational reconnaissance mission, which was later diverted for a casualty evacuation at Sarchu in eastern Ladakh. An army soldier Gunner Narsaiah had got trapped in an avalanche in eastern Ladakh and had to be evacuated. After successfully lifting the injured soldier, the helicopter took off for the base in the afternoon. However as Major Padmanabhan and Major Sunil Ganapathy were passing over Tanglang La pass, they encountered very dense and low base clouds and faced an emergency situation. Ladakh area was considered to have some of the most difficult terrains in the country, throwing unexpected challenges to the pilots. The mountains and the rapidly changing weather conditions caused a huge number of air mishaps and casualties. The Cheetah Helicopter presumably developed a serious snag that the pilots could not rectify in time. Major Padmanabhan and Major Sunil Ganapathy were experienced pilots with substantial flying experience but they apparently did not get adequate time to bring the aircraft under control. Consequently, at around 1630 hrs, the aircraft crashed near Tanglang La pass. As a result, both the pilots got critically injured, and soon succumbed to their injuries. Major Padmanabhan KE was a gallant soldier and a competent pilot, who at the age of 34 years laid down his life in the service of the nation. He was awarded the “Sena Medal” for his commendable dedication to duty, courage and supreme sacrifice on 26th January 2009.
Major Padmanabhan KE is survived by his father Shri EN Rammohan, mother Smt KM Prema, and sister KE Priyamvada (a well-known author of several books for children and young readers).