Service No : 913752
Place of birth : Ailum, UP
Last Rank : Sergeant
Unit : 157 HU AF
Arm/Regt : Indian Air Force
Operation : CI & IS Ops
Martyrdom : October 6, 2017
Sergeant Gautam Kumar hailed from Ailum village in Uttar Pradesh. He was enrolled into the Indian Airforce in June 2006 and worked in various Air Force bases operating diverse aircraft and other associated systems during his service of over 10 years. During 2017, Sgt Gautam Kumar was serving with a helicopter unit based under the Eastern Air Command of the IAF. Sgt Gautam Kumar’s unit was operating MI-17 transport helicopter, extensively used for air transport and logistics operations.
Air Maintenance Operation: 06 Oct 2017
During October 2017, Sgt Gautam Kumar was serving with 157 HU AF unit, equipped with Mi-17 V5 Helicopter and was based at Air Force Station Barrackpore in West Bengal. At that time a number of Indian army units were deployed at many far-flung areas in the northeast sector were no motorable roads existed. The most of the supplies to these units were dependent on airdrops, undertaken by Indian Air Force as Air Maintenance operations. Sgt Gautam Kumar was tasked for one such air maintenance mission as flight engineer of the aircraft on 6th October 2017. Besides Sgt Gautam Kumar, the other aircrew members included, Wg Cdr Vikas Upadhyay and Squadron Leader Shishir Tewari as pilots, MWO A K Singh and Sergeant Satish Kumar as the flight gunners. In addition to the aircrew, two Army personnel, Sepoy H N Deka and Sepoy E Balaji were also detailed to be part of the air maintenance mission.
Wg Cdr Vikas Upadhyay and Sqn Ldr Shishir Tewari along with Sgt Gautam Kumar and two other aircrews in their Mi-17 V5 helicopter took off from Khirmu helipad in Tawang district on 06 Oct 2017. The flight path of the sortie was vulnerable to dangerous weather changes, but Wg Cdr Vikas Upadhyay and Sqn Ldr Shishir Tewari were experienced pilots and had handled many such situations earlier. As the aircraft was on Air maintenance sortie, it was carrying supplies to the forward posts in Topokhar near the Yangste area. This was the second air maintenance sortie of the day for the aircraft in that forward area. At around 6 AM, as the supplies were being dropped in the dropping zone about 120 kms north of Tawang, the net holding the jerry cans of kerosene being offloaded got entangled in the aircraft’s rear rotor. As a result, the chopper caught fire instantly and crashed, giving no chance to the pilots to take any action. Sgt Gautam Kumar and all other 6 on-board military personnel including Wg Cdr Vikas Upadhyay, Sqn Ldr Shishir Tewari, MWO A K Singh, Sgt Satish Kumar, Sep H N Deka and Sep E Balaji, could not survive the crash.
Sgt Gautam Kumar was a committed soldier and professionally competent air warrior, who laid down his life in the service of the nation.