Deepak Sathe: A rare corp of IAF test pilots


Deepak Sathe, son of a retired Army officer, was from the 58th course of the NDA and was part of the Juliet Squadron, the same as the current vice chief of Army Staff, Lt.Gen. S.K. Saini.

Deepak sathe

An NDA journal accessed by The Print states Sathe was an outstanding Battalion Cadet Captain. It adds that he was excellent in academics and was a captain of the NDA Golf and Squash teams.

According to the reports, the accomplished pilot graduated from the Air Force Academy in Hyderabad with a Sword of Honour in June 1981 and was a good squash player. He has also been an instructor in the IAF training academy and retired from the force in 2003.

Former Wing Commander Sharma said that Sathe was awarded the 58 NDA President Gold Medal and was a test pilot with the IAF spoke volumes of him as a sharp professional.

Interestingly, he has also served with No.17 Squadron, ‘Golden Arrows’, which was recently recommissioned with the Rafale fighter jets. Captain Sathe had joined the air force in June 1981 and quit in June 2003.

He was commissioned into service in 1981 and served in the force for 22 years. He started his career in  Indian Air Force by flying MiG-21 Supersonic Jetfighter. He retired in 2003 as Wing Commander and in 2005 he joined Air India. According to sources, he was a decorated officer who ranked 58 at the National Defence Academy (India) and Sword of Honour in the 127 pilots course. He was a test pilot in the Indian Air Force and skilled at operating Boeing 737 commercial flights.

Deepak sathe was an exceptionally intelligent pilot, he was an easygoing person who never shied away from helping others and went out of his way for that. He was good at studies . and won a gold medal but spent hours helping out people who were not so academically sound, to understand their problems.

 Captain Sathe had survived an air crash in the 1990s. During this incident, he suffered multiple injuries to his skull and was hospitalized for around six months. Many thought that he would never be able to fly again, but due to his sheer will power and passion, he cleared flying tests and clinched a position in the cockpit.


He was appointed as the pilot of flight IX 1344 along with the co-pilot, First officer Akhilesh Kumar. On August 2020, Captain Sathe and co-pilot were flying the Air India Express flight returning from Dubai, their plane crashed and broke apart into two pieces at the Kozhikode International Airport, Kerala. It was the flight under ‘Vande Bharat’ mission, to bring back the Indians who have stuck abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plane dropped 30 feet and crashed into the wall nearby. He saved hundreds of lives. As per unconfirmed reports, Captain Sathe turned off the plane’s engine right before the crash, thus ensuring that it didn’t catch fire upon crash landing, saving several lives. The plane was a 13-year-old Boeing 737-8.

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