At least 18 people, including both the pilots were killed after an Air India Express plane with 190 passengers on board from Dubai skidded off the runway and broke in two while landing at Kerala's Kozhikode on Friday, August 7 amid incessant rain.
All the passengers on board were evacuated after a nearly three-hour operation and at least 112 injured were taken to hospitals in nearby Kozhikode and Malappuram districts, authorities said.
At least 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and four cabin crew members were on board the aircraft.
Along with flight Commander Captain Deepak Sathe, Akhilesh Kumar was the co-pilot of the ill-fated Air India Express 1344 flight. The 32-year-old was among the 18 people who died in the crash.
Akhilesh Kumar, a native of Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, is survived by his pregnant wife, Megha whom he married in 2017, his two younger brothers, a sister and his parents.
Akhilesh began flying with Air India in 2017 and was the first officer of the Air India Express flight from Kozhikode-Dubai-Kozhikode in May, which was part of the first phase of the Vande Bharat Mission.
Commander Captain Michael Saldanha, who flew with Akhilesh earlier, recalled him as a sincere officer.
"We had only interacted with each other on that flight. He was a junior and I believe it was his second monsoon flight. But, he was up-to-date with the required knowledge of the aircraft. In fact, he did a good job landing the flight in Dubai. We could not interact much as per the COVID-19 protocols," Captain Michael told The News Minute.
A video of Akhilesh being welcomed to Karipur Airport in Kozhikode on May 8, 2020, is doing rounds on social media. He was part of an Air India Express plane crew, the first repatriation flight under the Vande Bharat Mission to land in Kozhikode, bringing back stranded Indian in Dubai.
Hero's welcome late last night for Air India Express Kozhikode-Dubai-Kozhikode #VandeBharatMission commander Capt Michale Saldanha, first officer Capt Akhilesh Kumar with cabin crew members Vineet Shamil, Abdul Rouf, Raseena P & Rijo Johnson. pic.twitter.com/asKvX9kQYw— Manju V (@ManjuVTOI) May 8, 2020
Taking to social media to condole the tragic and untimely deaths of the pilots, a pilot wrote: "A few years ago, a very passionate Akhilesh Kumar (Akhil for us) pilot on right IX1344 helped us understand Technical General. Till date, my friend and I remember Stability (neutral, stable, unstable) with his revolving chair example. You are dearly missed, tailwinds to both of you."
A few years ago, a very passionate Akhilesh Kumar (Akhil for us) pilot on right #IX1344 helped us understand Technical General. Till date, my friend & I remember Stability (Neutral, stable, unstable) with his revolving chair eg.— Anjan (@a_flyguy) August 7, 2020
You are dearly missed, tailwinds to both of you https://t.co/j5jdMfs4q9