Service No : 29227 F(P)
Place of birth : Kottayam Dist(Kerala)
Last Rank : Squadron Leader
Unit : 111 HU AF
Arm/Regt : Indian Air Force
Martyrdom : July 25, 2014
Sqn Ldr Manu Rajagopal hailed from Udayanapuram in Vaikom taluk of Kottayam district in Kerala. He had a strong desire to join the armed forces right from his childhood and continued to follow his dream. Eventually he joined the Air Force and was commissioned on 15th December, 2006. He got trained as a helicopter pilot and passed out as part of the 178th Pilots’ Course. After completing his flying training he served in various frontline helicopter units of the IAF. By the year 2014, he had been promoted to the rank of Squadron Leader and had gathered substantial operational flying experience.
ALH Op Mission: 25 July 2014
During July 2015, Sqn Ldr Manu Rajagopal was serving with 111 HU based at Air Force Station Bareilly. 111 HU known as "Snow Tigers" came into being on 01 Aug 63, under the Command of Sqn Ldr BS Kalra. At that time it was located at Tezpur with MI-4 aircraft, with its main role being causality evacuation and transport support. Later it moved to the Air Force base at Hashimara and then to Bareilly. On 25 July 2014, the unit was tasked for an operational mission to Allahabad from Bareilly. Sqn Ldr Manu Rajagopal as co-pilot of the ALH (Dhruv) helicopter along with his captain Wg Cdr TNB Singh got airborne at 1553 hrs from Air Force Station Bareilly. On the way, the helicopter faced some technical glitches and gave a ‘May Day” call for help, but thereafter lost contact with the Air Traffic Control. However, Sqn Ldr Manu Rajagopal and his captain Wg Cdr TNB Singh showed the commendable presence of mind and steered the aircraft away from the thickly populated area around Sitapur.
The helicopter eventually crashed near Ataria, about 70 km from Lucknow at around 5 PM. There were no survivors as the air crash proved fatal for the entire aircrew. Besides Sqn Ldr Manu Rajagopal & Wg Cdr TNB Singh the other fallen air warriors included Junior Warrant Officer P Mukherjee, Sergeant D Panda, Corporal Manoj Yadav, Corporal R K Singh and Leading Aircraftsman Dumpa Laxmi Naidu. Sqn Ldr Manu Rajagopal was a brave air warrior and committed officer who laid down his life in the line of his duty following the highest traditions of the Indian Air Force.