US to honour IAF pilots for rescuing mountaineer

The Unit, also known as the Siachen Pioneers, is stationed at the Leh Air base and has been involved in several such operations.

Leh: Impressed by Indian Air Force (IAF)
pilots who rescued a American mountaineer stranded at a height
of 23,000 feet near Siachen recently, the US is planning to
honour the helicopter unit for its feat.

"The US Defence Attache in New Delhi has sought permission
to come to Leh to present a plaque to the 114 Helicopter Unit
as its pilots saved one of their mountaineers in the region
next to Siachen," senior IAF sources told a news agency.

The Unit, also known as the Siachen Pioneers, is stationed
at the Leh Air base and has been involved in several such
operations.

The Unit had deployed two Cheetah helicopters on August
26 to evacuate American national Steven John Swenson from
one of the most difficult glaciers, `Shupka Kunzang`, located
at the base of Saser Kangri-II peak in the East Karakoram
range of Ladakh region.

Swenson was part of an Indo-American mountaineering
team which was attempting to summit the Saser Kangri-II peak,
when he was taken seriously ill due to extremely high
altitude.

The team requested for immediate air rescue through their
organising agency and the US embassy.

Soon after receiving the request, the IAF dispatched a
two-helicopter rescue team of the Siachen Pioneers led by Wg
Cdr S Srinivasan along with the rescue team Wg Cdr D C Tiwari,
Flt Lts A Agrawal and A K Bharmoria.

The mission involved flying into unknown territory and
landing at a density altitude of approximately 23000 ft
over an inhospitable glacier, IAF officials said.

After assessing the landing site which was covered with
snow and wide crevasses of the glacier, Wg Cdr Srinivasan
manoeuvred his helicopter to land in the restricted area with
negligible reserve of power and without wasting any time the
American was taken onboard while the second helicopter
maintained a close vigil from the top.

The Unit, which is frequently involved in such operations,
has the motto `We do the difficult as routine, the impossible
may take a bit longer`.

PTI

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