Squadron Leader Sadanand Keshav Dixit (12407) Flying (Pilot) while on a unit detachment at Leh, was tasked for a search mission on 21st July, 1982.
A party of ten tourists of different nationalities, had started down ZANSKAR river on two rafts from PADAM village. The same day two empty rafts had been spotted at NIMMU, where the ZANSKAR flows into INDUS, and so ten rafters were feared to be in some danger. The ZANSKAR river is, on the average, only about seven feet in width and its valley is extremely narrow with walls of stone rising thousands of feet high from both banks of the river.
Squadron Leader Dixit took off from Leh at about 1500 hours for this challenging mission of mercy with full knowledge of the hazards. By the time he reached the Indus/Zanskar confluence, the sun had already dipped beyond the western ridges, causing dark and deceptive shadows. This coupled with strong winds and turbulence, made his task of search, nearly impossible. The narrowness of the valley and fading light compelled him to descend to about 100' over the rapids of the Zanskar, which, in itself, is a hair raising task, even under the best of conditions. This endeavour of flying the machine, battling the against the heavy odds and searching for survivors was a daring display of professional efficiency and bravery of the highest order. Undaunted by these, Squadron Leader Dixit continued the search. After 30 minutes of continuous scanning of the wing swept dark valley, he noticed a movement on the right bank of the river. The stranded persons were perched on a steep and rocky slope. When all attempts to land near the party failed, a precarious landing on a rocky spot, on the opposite bank was executed. Contact was established with stranded persons and it was established that all of them were unharmed, though without food and clothes. Two survival packs were given to them to enable them to tide over the night and helicopter returned to Leh. On the 22nd July, 1984, Squadron Leader Dixit was airborne at first light to commence evacuation. An engineer party was taken along to attempt bridging the river to bring the persons to the left bank. However, it was soon realized that the make shift bridge would not work out and it was decided to pick up the persons in a low hover over the slopy right bank. Executing a steady hover on a steep slope at high altitude and in a strong winds is tremendously demanding task which made the operations more difficult by people climbing in the rear. A total of three trips were made in a similar fashion till all ten tourists were safely landed at Leh.
Squadron Leader Sadanand Keshav Dixit thus displayed bravery, indomitable courage and exceptional professionalism.