Guts a pre-requisite to
fly on Siachen Glacier
Base Camp, Nov 6 (IANS) "Guts are the pre-requisite to
fly here". A plaque at the Indian Air Force's (IAF) 114
Cheetah Helicopter Unit aptly summarizes the harsh environment
that the aviators have to face while operating on the Siachen
Glacier, once known as the highest battlefield in the world
at 22,000 ft.
IAF pilots, landing on some of the world's highest helipads
like Sonam (20,000 feet) and Amar (20,114 feet) is a daily
affair. Army pilots also push their helicopters beyond their
performance limits to maintain the supply to the forward posts
located at the frozen frontier.
these operations in the light of regular enemy firing, unpredictable
weather, temperatures between minus 40 and minus 60 degrees
Celsius, one realises the guts behind the glory.
Siachen Glacier is the most challenging place to land a helicopter.
We carry out lots of calculations involving power of the helicopter
and load carried in the prevailing density of air, wind conditions
and altitude," Col. Ajay Gogna told IANS.
has been flying the Cheetah helicopter in the treacherous
terrain of the Siachen Glacier, dropping supply at various
posts and evacuating casualties.
times we have to evacuate casualties from difficult terrain
and from unprepared helipads. An officer should be mentally
prepared to carry out all tasks with perfection," Gogna
pilots operating in the region are called "Fliers of
the Roof of the World" and "Siachen Saviours"
for the role they assume for sustaining the huge logistical
exercise on the glacier.
needed by soldiers to fire heaters and melt ice to obtain
water at posts where even a bucket of boiling water turns
into ice within 15-20 minutes, used to be supplied by the
helicopters till army engineers constructed a special 121
km-long pipeline connecting the Siachen base camp to some
positions on the glacier.
battalion of Indian troops was rushed to Siachen in 1984 under
"Operation Meghdoot" to stave off efforts by Pakistani
units to occupy the 76-km-long glacier.
then, the army and the IAF have mounted a huge logistical
exercise to maintain troops at forward posts and to evacuate
pilots take their Cheetah helicopters, based on a design of
1960s vintage and meant to fly only at altitudes of up to
about 15,000 feet, to posts located as high as 21,000 feet.
medium lift Mi-17 helicopters have been carrying out successful
air-drops to the lower level (up to 17,500 ft) helipads in
the area and have been the backbone of air maintenance. The
Cheetahs then take over the challenging task of ferrying supplies
and men to helipads situated up to about 20,000 feet.
aviators put it this way - "We do the difficult as a
routine, the impossible may take a bit longer."