Life was cut short for 19-year-old Sohel Zahiruddin Ansari minutes after the two-seater Diamond DA40 aircraft he was flying crashed on Tuesday afternoon. A trainee pilot at the Uttar Pradesh-based Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi (IGRUA), Sohel took off for his solo sortie from Birsi airfield in Gondia (near Nagpur).
His body was recovered from Delakhedi Village in Chindwada district in Madhya Pradesh yesterday. Father, mother, brother and two younger sisters survive Sohel.
Trainee pilots from IGRUA are sent to Gondia base for training due to bad weather and poor visibility in Rae Bareli during winter. Sohel took off from Gondia at 12.30 pm for Panchmarhi and was expected to return by 3 pm.
The Ansaris live in a small house in slums on Tadiwala Road, where Sohels’ father Zahiruddin runs a tiny bakery by paying a monthly rent of Rs 2,500. Making Sohel a commercial pilot was an unaffordable dream for this lower middle-class family, but Zahiruddin and his relatives did every possible thing to raise Rs 38 lakh for the 18-month course. Sohel had joined IGRUA in December 2012 and was supposed to complete the course in the next five months.
A father waits
“The officials here are telling me not to lose hope. Search operation is on. They are saying that they will find Sohel soon using the inputs they received from the black box of the aircraft,” said Zahiruddin, who was in Gondia hoping to get news about his son’s well-being.
While Zahiruddin still believes that his son would be returning home soon, Sohel’s brother Shoaib came to know about his death through news channels. “He was sincere, hard working and very good in studies. My father is telling me that soon he will meet Sohel, but I already know...” Shoaib said.
Commenting on Sohel’s flying skills Zahiruddin said this was not the first time that Sohel had flown solo. “He’s got good flying skills. That’s why he was a few of those who were selected for the course from across the country.”
Zahiruddin and his wife had visited their hometown in Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh last month to make provision for Rs 8 lakh, the remaining fee for the course.
A good student, Sohel had passed HSC with distinction from Wadia College and had planned to become an engineer for which he attempted and cleared CET in May 2012. But it was one of his friends, Sumit, who induced the idea of becoming a pilot into Sohel. Though both appeared for IGRUA entrance test, it was Sohel who cracked it and was one of the few to be selected for the course from among 4,500 candidates.
“I clearly remember the day when Sohel had his maiden flight because his father distributed cake from his bakery to all of us saying that once Sohel completes the course, he will give opportunity to each one of us to sit in an aircraft next to him,” local political activist Yasin Sheikh, who knows the Ansaris well, said.
Commenting on the sense of pride the Anasris and the locals felt, Sohel’s friend Elahi Jamadar said it was a big achievement for a boy hailing from Tadiwala Road slums of attempting to become a pilot. “Zahiruddin’s brother-in-law had taken a promise from Sohel that he would marry his daughter after becoming a pilot.”
“The pilot was expected to return to Gondia base by 2.30 pm on Tuesday. But after confirming that the plane was missing in Chindwada area, we immediately informed the MP police. They initiated a search operation in jungles of Balaghat and Chindwada. Finally, Ansari’s body was recovered from Childongri jungle on Wednesday afternoon,” siad Vijay Halmare, Asst Sub Inspector of Gondia