Wing Commander Sunil Bijlani (16087) Flying (Pilot) has been commanding a Helicopter Unit since 24 Nov 97. He is a QFI with over 3700 hrs of flying experience on Mi-8, Chetak and Cheetah helicopters.
On 18 Aug 98 a group of outgoing Mansarovar Yatris was decimated during a massive landslide at Malpa village in UP hills. Wg Cdr Bijlani was designated the Type Force Commander (Chetak/Cheetah) for 'Op Blue Angels' in support of disaster relief of Mansarovar Yatris at Malpa and Ganji. On 20 Aug 98 he led a detachment of four helicopters to Dharchula. Two attempts were made by him to penetrate the weather and land at Malpa on 21 Aug 98 but were not successful. However, on 22 Aug 98 in the second attempt he entered the narrow gorge between clouds, which were a few hundred feet above the valley floor and successfully carried out a landing at the semi-prepared and slushy helipad, thus clearing operations from Malpa by other pilots. Thereafter, he personally carried out fiftyeight sorties towards this operation, which involved airlifting survivors, decomposed bodies, passengers and supplies to and from Malpa. Apart from carrying on his flying duties he was also required to liaise with the civil administration, relatives of the yatris and the Press resulting in smooth flow of information. His dedicated professionalism and leadership ensured completion of an accident/incident free flying task resulting in evacuation of 37 dead bodies, 15 casualties and 119 passengers. As the Commanding Officer he was also able to sustain very high level of morale of all pilots and ground crew at Dharchula operating under difficult conditions to bring out the best in all Air Force personnel. His personal example, leadership and close co-ordination not only helped the civil administration in successful conduct of relief operations but also elevated the image of the Service through the Press.
For exceptional devotion to duty during flying operations in adverse weather, terrain and leadership qualities of high order, the Hon'ble President is pleased to award 'Vayu Sena Medal' to Wing Commander Sunil Bijlani.