Ahead of the Republic Day, the Government of India announced a list of defence personnel chosen for awards for their exceptional achievement in a particular field/discipline, gallantry and bravery. Squadron Leader Vivek Gairola is among those who have been conferred with Vayu Sena Medal(Gallantry) for safely bringing out his Su-30MKI fighter plane from a critical situation during mid-air refuelling and landing it back safely during a mission in June last year.
Holy hell… Here’s why IAF Su-30 pilot Squadron Leader Vivek Gairola will be decorated with a Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/3Gr2NNSihS— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) January 25, 2021
Gairola, a Four Aircraft Leader and trainer captain with nine hundred hours of accident/incident free flying, is on the posted strength of a front line Su-30 MKI squadron. Last June, Gairola was authorised to fly Night Air to Air refuelling sortie during which the refuelling drogue went below the aircraft nose. The aircraft immediately experienced a strong pitch-up and longitudinal oscillations along with associated Fly By Wire(FBW) failure warnings.
However, unfazed by the daunting challenge, Gairola displayed excellent flying skills, decision-making ability, crew resource management and courage in the safe recovery of the aircraft. For this exceptional act of courage and bravery, Gairola has been awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).
The citation to Gairola’s Vayu Sena Medal read: “Sqn Ldr Vivek Gairola controlled the aircraft and continued to fall back to the astern position thus steering clear of the FRA (Refueller) and other fighter aircraft in close vicinity. Displaying composure in face of a critical emergency, he decided to divert to the nearest airbase and took correct subsequent actions to rule out other system failures. During the recovery, he delegated the duties of Radio Telephony (R/T) and throttle management to the Weapon System Operator (WSO) as both his hands were required to overcome the strong stick forces.”
It further stated, “With great human effort and skill he flew the aircraft by night, avoiding disorientation and executed a safe landing. Despite the difficult situation, Sqn Ldr Vivek Gairola was able to correctly identify the indications of a critical emergency, assess the options available and take timely corrective action thus saving precious combat asset.”