By Maj Ehsan Ullah, Retd (60 PMA L/C)
In 1981, while I was serving in Northern Areas in my unit 6 FF, I went to Gilgit from Kamri (Astore Sector) to proceed on leave to Rawalpindi. In Gilgit, I stayed with my unit officer Captain Raheel Sharif (Now COAS), who was at that time GSO-3 in an Infantry Brigade. Capt Raheel too had plans to go on leave. Gen Imtiaz Warraich, who was our previous FCNA Commander and was now MS, had come to Gilgit at that time on an official visit. Capt Raheel secured two seats in the MS’s helicopter which was flying back to Pindi.
The next day we boarded the Puma helicopter. During the flight, when we were ahead of Chilas, there was a heavy smoke in the rear where the passengers were sitting. The pilot landed the chopper safely on KKH (Kararkoram Highway) short of Pattan.
The moment the doors opened everybody jumped out and as a natural instinct ran away from the chopper. I was standing with Capt Raheel waiting for my turn to run. The moment I was about to run, he held me from behind and said, “Laalay, kithay nuss riya aine?”
I said, “Sir, let’s go, can’t you see the smoke in the helicopter? It may catch fire any moment.”
With a smile on his face, he said, “Assee crew nu chad kay kis tarah jaa sakday aan?”
I was mortified to hear this and felt so sheepish. Everybody standing far away was shouting for us to be clear off the chopper. Capt Raheel did not leave until the smoke was cleared and the crew was out.
The pilots and the Flight Engineer found out that the smoldering fire had started due to short circuiting of a wireless set antenna wire. The flight continued to Pindi after determining that there was no damage to the helicopter.
Editor’s Note: Maj Shaukat Ibrahim (1st SSC) was the captain of Puma helicopter and Maj Mansoor (PMA Course?) was the copilot. It was found that a small smoldering fire had started due to short circuiting of HF set antenna wire located at the back of the helicopter. Maj Shaukat got a TBt for displaying coolness and professionalism in handling an in-flight emergency which could otherwise have resulted in a disaster.
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