Heavy snowfall in J&K threw life in the entire region of Srinagar valley out of gear with partial power failure due to the HT lines at Banihal Pass getting buried under snow.
Responding to a request for assistance from the Power Grid Corporation of India, the Indian Air Force tasked the Cheetah Helicopter unit based at Udhampur with the challenging and important mission to airlift a seven member repair team to Banihal Top to carry out repairs on the 300 MW power line.
The mission involved a high degree of risk as the helicopter was required to operate close to High Tension Cables and Pylons at about 10,000 feet near Banihal pass, an area known for high turbulence and strong winds. A reccee was carried out on January 22 to assess the slope, gradient and depth of snow and a suitable landing site selected.
On January 23, Wg Cdr N Batra along with Sqn Ldr Milind got airborne at first light and dropped seven personnel at the selected site in four shuttles and returned to Udhampur for refueling. Realized that the weather was fast deteriorating and the repair team had to be picked up at the earliest as they were in a snowbound area with no means to fend for themselves. The crew immediately took another helicopter and in difficult circumstances once again carried out four shuttles from the site to lower Banihal and got the entire team down. Meanwhile a second helicopter got airborne from Udhampur and assisted in getting all personnel back to Udhampur.
In spite of lack of visual references, sub zero temperatures, adverse wind conditions, coupled with high density of obstructions, the whole operation was accomplished with precise accuracy. The mission displayed professionalism and dedication to service and added to the IAF image of being ever ready to provide succor to the civilian population.
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