Service No : 3937 GD(P)

Date of Birth : September 16, 1927

Place of birth : Chennai, (TN)

Last Rank : Sqn Ldr

Unit : AATU

Arm/Regt : Indian Air Force

Awards : Kirti Chakra

Martyrdom : June 4, 1960

Sqn Ldr Ayappan Sudhakaran KC

Sqn Ldr Ayappan Sudhakaran hailed from Chennai in Tamil Nadu and was born on 16 Sep 1927. Son of Shri VK Ayappan Pillai, Sqn Ldr Ayappan followed his childhood dream of becoming a fighter pilot in the Air Force and joined NDA after his schooling. He was commissioned into the Indian Air Force on 14th Oct 1950 at the age of 23 years. He joined the flying stream of the IAF and got trained as a fighter pilot as part of 53rd Pilots' course.

 

After his initial flying training was posted to various Air Force bases and gained experience in flying different types of aircraft. He got promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant on 14 Oct 1955. He then got trained as a test pilot at Empire Test Pilots School, UK in the year 1956.  By 1960, Sqn Ldr Sudhakaran had completed around 10 years of service in the Air Force and evolved into a professionally competent pilot having expertise in various types of air operations. 

 

Air Operation : 04 June 1960

 

During 1960, Sqn Ldr Sudhakaran was serving with Aircraft and Armament Testing Unit (A&ATU) based at Kanpur. The Aircraft & Systems Testing Establishment (ASTE) started its journey as Armament Testing Unit (ATU) in Kanpur in 1948. In 1957, it was formally raised as Aircraft and Armament Testing Unit (A&ATU) at Kanpur.  The unit was engaged in undertaking operations to evaluate aircraft and systems for induction into user organizations. During 1960, Sqn Ldr Sudhakaran was functioning as a test pilot in the unit with Sqn Ldr Suranjan Das as its Commanding Officer. 

 

On 04 June 1960, Sqn Ldr Sudhakaran was detailed for an air test operational sortie with Gnat aircraft. Sqn Ldr Sudhakaran had carried out various air test missions on Gnat aircraft and had developed good understanding of the operational capabilities of the aircraft. He took off in his aircraft and completed the operational task as per the flying test plan and headed to the base for landing. However while landing the aircraft on the Airfield the aircraft's engine flamed out. Gnat being a single engine aircraft lost its engine power and was in no way controllable. Sqn Ldr Sudhakaran assessed the situation and decided to use his flying skills to land the aircraft instead of abandoning it. It was a very risky decision but he, as a committed soldier decided to save the aircraft by putting his own life in danger.

 

However as the aircraft was at a low level, Sqn Ldr Sudhakaran could not succeed despite his heroic efforts and crashed. Sqn Ldr Sudhakaran showed exceptional courage and devotion to duty in his selfless act at the cost of his own life. Sqn Ldr Sudhakaran was given the nation's second highest peace time gallantry award "Kirti Chakra" for his rare example of self sacrifice and extreme devotion to duty.

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