Service No : IC-58294K

Date of Birth : February 14, 1976

Place of birth : Kodagu Dist (Kar)

Service : Army

Last Rank : Major

Unit : 3 R&O Flt

Arm/Regt : Army Aviation Corps

Operation : CI & IS Ops

Awards : Sena Medal

Martyrdom : August 15, 2008

Major Sunil Ganapathy SM

Major Sunil Ganapathy hailed from Chembebellur village of Kodagu district in Karnataka and was born on 14th February 1976. Son of Col Charimanda Ganesh Ganapathy (Retd), who served the nation for 35 years and Smt Bhavani Ganapathy, he did his schooling at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Raebarelli, and passed out in the year 1994. Being born into a military family, he wanted to serve in the Army right from his childhood days. His dream eventually came true, when he passed out as a Lieutenant donning an olive green uniform in December 1998. He was commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery, the important combat support arm of Indian Army. Besides being a deep rooted soldier, he was a keen sportsman too and excelled in playing basket ball. He was a very cheerful, humble and affable person, which made him likable to his peers and juniors as well. 


After serving for a few years with his parent Regiment, he got selected for the Army Aviation Corps and got trained as a helicopter pilot. He completed his basic Army Aviation Course from Jhansi and Advance Army Aviation Course from Nashik. He earned his wings in November 2003 and got posted to an operational flying squadron.  After a few years of service, he got married to Ms. B Shubha and the couple had a son Ahwan and a daughter Gowri. 


Cheetah Air Operation (Ladakh) : 15 Aug 2008


During August 2008, Major Sunil Ganapathy was serving with 3 R&O (Recce and Observation) Flight belonging to 666 Army Aviation Sqn. The 3 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 Sunil Ganapathy was tasked with one such air mission along with Major Padmanabhan KE of 7 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 Sunil Ganapathy and Major Padmanabhan 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 Sunil Ganapathy and Major Padmanabhan 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. Maj Sunil Ganapathy was a gallant soldier and a competent pilot, who at the age of 32 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 Sunil Gnapathy is survived by his wife Smt B Shubha, son Ahwan and daughter Gowri.

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