Wing Commander Mahtab Rai Handa was specially selected as a helicopter pilot for the Fourth Antarctica Expedition. In Antarctica, Wg Cdr Handa showed tremendous zeal and contributed substantially to the flying effort and achievement of the expedition goals against tremendous odds.
On 24 Feb 85, as soon as it was learnt that a naval Chetak had force landed on a floating iceberg and could not be rescued by any available means within the capability of the ship, he took the decision in coordination with the Expedition leader to rescue the naval aircrew and recover their aircraft by the Pratap helicopter. He flew two sorties for rescue of the crew from a floating ice berg which had undulating surface and several cracks. He also helped Wg Cdr Simeos in flying the repaired Pratap helicopter which had suffered heavy damage. This helicopter was flown onto a small ramp on board the ship, after it was exposed to a number of blizzards for 42 days. With his dedicated participation in the flying effort with only serviceable Pratap helicopter, all men and material for the Expedition were airlifted to the new station at Dakshin Gangotri Hills.
For his exceptional devotion to duty, professional skill and competence, coupled with outstanding courage shown during the crisis, the President is pleased to award Vayu Seva Medal to Wing Commander Mahtab Rai Handa.