On Sunday, the 3rd February 1952, a Devon Aircraft carrying six passengers, which included the Army Commander, Western Command, the Chief of the General Staff, the QuarterMaster General, one Divisional Commander, the Military Secretary and the Deputy Director of Supplies and Transport, Army Headquarters, was piloted by Flight Lieutenant Suhas Biswas on a flight from Lucknow to Delhi. Soon after the aircraft left Lucknow at about 1800 hours, the port engine developed serious trouble and caught fire. Flight Lieutenant Biswas tried hard to extinguish the fire but without success; so he immediately decided to force land. It was then getting dark but there was just sufficient light to choose a flat piece of ground. During the descent from 6,000 feet, the burning port engine fell out and the aircraft got out of control but Flight Lieutenant Biswas soon succeeded in bringing the aircraft under control. He then switched off the only engine functioning, and made a successful belly landing under the worst conditions, thus averting a major disaster.
Fully realising the gravity of the situation and in the face of certain disaster, Flight Lieutenant BiswasĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s demeanour and behaviour in the plane was inspiring. At no time did he show that he was not in complete control of the situation. His presence of mind when the plane caught fire, skillful navigation of the plane when the engine had fallen out and his courage in landing the plane on unreconnoitred ground in twilight showed leadership of the highest order and set a magnificent example of extreme devotion to duty.
Full Story: On the 3rd of February, 1952, The U. P. Area command of the Indian Army was holding a tactical Exercise in Lucknow. To Witness this Exercise, High ranking Army Officials decided to fly down to the Exercise to observe. The Then GOC-in-C Western Command Lt Gen S. M Shrinagesh (Later COAS) , The Quarter Master General Maj-Gen K. S . Thimayya (later COAS), The Chief of General Staff Maj Gen S. P. P. Thorat (later GOC-inC East), The Military Secretary Maj Gen Sarda Nand, Maj Gen Mohinder Singh Chopra and Brig Ajaib Singh boarded the IAF HQ and Communications Flight De Havilland Devon (HW 516) which was being flown by Flt Lt Suhas Biswas. The Devon reached Lucknow and after the exercises were completed, the Officers returned for the return flight to Delhi. The Devon took off at 1800 Hrs and moments after the aircraft took off, the Crew observed the port engine was spewing smoke and soon a fire broke out. The Devon became difficult to control and as the fire kept creeping towards the main fuselage, Biswas, the pilot put the Devon in a dive in an attempt to reduce altitude and attempt a crash landing before the aircraft fuel reserves caught fire and blew up. As the Devon was put into the dive, The Aircraft shuddered in the airflow and The Engine mounting broke away, resulting in the burning engine seperating from the wing and falling off. Biswas levelled the Aircraft and belly landed sucessfully at a village near the Sandilla Railway Station. All the occupants walked out of the crashed aircraft unhurt with the pilot being the last to leave.
Flt Lt Suhas Biswas awarded the First Ashoka Chakra to the Indian Air Force for the presence of mind, Skill and cool courage in maintaining the Stricken aircraft and saving the lives of many Senior Army Officers. Which included Two Future Army Chiefs and an Army Commander. The Air Force Chief, Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee, had had the passenger chairs removed from the wrecked Devon and presented it individually to each of the survivors of the crash with a Brass Plate mentioning the circumstances of the crash.