Wg Cdr M Bhandari has been the Commanding Officer (CO) of a MiG-21 Bis fighter squadron (Sqn) since 26 Oct 92.
On 27 Dec 93, Wg Cdr Bhandari was authorised to fly a dual check sortie by night with a trainee pilot in a MiG-21 trainer aircraft (ac). The sortie involved practice circuits, approaches and overshoots from round off height. Round off height for MiG-21 ac is about one meter, at which the pilot reduces the approach angle so as to fly the ac parallel to the runway just before landing. In the third approach, the trainee pilot was asked to fly away after round off for practicing another circuit and approach. As the engine accelerated to 100% revolutions per minute (rpm) a shallow climb was initiated by the trainee pilot. However, after climbing to about 15 meter height, the engine flamed out. Wg Cdr Bhandari immediately took over the controls and handled the situation in a most professional, courageous and cool manner and landed the ac safely on the runway. Considering that it was night and at a height of 15 meters the runway lights are not visible thus denying any visual reference most essentially required for landing the ac, his handling of this grave emergency is laudatory. By his sheer courage and professionalism he was able to avert a catastrophe, which could have been fatal to the occupants and also resulted in the loss of an ac costing approximately three and a half crores. He not only managed to land the ac without any damage but also exercised proper control thereafter and cleared the ac off the runway in order to facilitate recovery of other ac airborne at that time. In keeping with the highest traditions of the Indian Air Force, Wg Cdr Bhandari displayed exceptional courage and airmanship in averting an almost certain fatal disaster.
For this exceptional courage the President is pleased to award 'Vayu Sena Medal' to Wg Cdr Mukesh Bhandari.