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August 21, 2012

IAF copter rescues German national from Nun Peak in Ladakh

      New Delhi: An Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter has rescued a German national from Nun Peak in Ladakh. The Indian Air Force Helicopter once again proved their mettle and evacuated German national Dr Steger Helmut Otto, who was a part of a mountaineering expedition consisting of Swiss and German nationals from a camp on the slopes 7135 metres high Nun Peak in the Himalayan Ranges. On Aug 18 evening, the Leh based IAF Helicopter Unit, nicknamed "Siachen Pioneers", received a request for casualty evacuation from the mountaineering team attempting to climb the Nun peak. Two of the guides of the team were missing in the avalanche, and one member of the team was gravely injured, just few hundred feet away from the summit. The information available for evacuation was sketchy and immediately the Commanding Officer called for the most experienced among the available aircrew to start planning rescue. Considering the high altitude, high temperatures, treacherous terrain and non-availability of exact location, altitude and the prevailing cloudy weather condition, to evacuate a casualty that could be anywhere between 23000' to 19000', was an onerous task. The high level of uncertainties make it necessary to take decisions in the nick of the time. With not enough time left before sunset, it was decided to launch the rescue effort at sunrise next morning on Sunday. The press release by the Ministry of Defence disclosed that a two-helicopter rescue team got airborne at 0545 hrs on 19 August. The rescue team was led by the Commanding Officer, Wg Cdr UKS Bhadauria himself and included Wg Cdr PS Babu, Wg Cdr AS Rajput and Sqn Ldr AK Bharmoria. The team soon realized that coordinates provided were grossly out from the actual location. Not sure of the position of casualty and deteriorating weather in the area, left only a small window of time for rescue before onset of full whiteout conditions . The experience of the aircrew came in handy. The helicopters first started combing the peak from top for picking up the avalanche site at 23000 feet, which is the extreme limit of their aircraft flight envelope. Thereafter flying downwards they made contact with the foot tracks made by the mountaineers on the snow surface. The helicopter formation picked up the location of the casualty at one of the camps by following the snow trail and proceeded for landing at that the camp site. Wg Cdr UKS Bhadauria to put to fore his extensive flying experience in manoeuvring the aircraft so as to carry out the landing at 19000 feet on an unprepared and snow covered surface. The second helicopter Captained by Wg Cdr AS Rajput maintained a close vigil from the top and continued orbiting overhead and monitored the situation, to ensure the safety of both the casualty and the machine. After picking up the casualty who had survived a fall of approximately 300 feet at the summit and was stuck on his fixed rope with few broken ribs and head injury, the formation set course and landed back at Leh at 08.45hours . The "Siachen Pioneers" crew displayed highest level of professionalism, courage and daring without fearing for their own safety, leading to successful completion of the mercy mission , which was more than evident from the convincing smile of the survivor, Dr Steger Helmut Otto. The team of two helicopters was assisted in the effort by Air Cmde S P Wagle Air Officer Commanding the Leh Air Force Station who ensured that all necessary services worked in sync for the successful execution of the mission.
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