Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Mangalorean Pilot Capt Michael Saldanha Brings Home Safely Stranded Students studying in Ukraine

Mangaluru: It should be remembered that during the Pandemic time in 2020, Kodiyal aka Kudla born flight commander Michael Saldanha from Valencia, Mangaluru had made headline news in local print and electronic media for his fearless spirit to SERVE THE NATION, where he commanded the First Vande Bharat Flight, in which he safely brought back 177 Indians stranded in Dubai due to the pandemic. With nearly 13 years of flying experience, Capt Saldanha was tasked with bringing home stranded Indians in the UAE to Kozhikode in a special Air India Express flight as part of the Centre’s massive repatriation exercise ‘Vande Bharat Mission’.- and he did it BRAVELY.

It was the FIRST Covid repatriation flight- and he had made Mangaloreans proud then, and once again we Mangaloreans should be proud and salute this young Captain’s bravado for his evacuation efforts in bringing to India (Mumbai), Indian students stranded in war-torn Ukraine, who had crossed the border. He commanded 2 evacuation flights. One from Bucharest, Romania carrying 182 students and the other carrying 185 students who were evacuated from Budapest, Hungary back to Mumbai. Team Mangalorean on behalf of all Mangaloreans and Indians wish our “Hero” Flight Commander/Captain Michael Saldanha all success in his future endeavours as a Daring Pilot, that Kudla has seen.

Recalling the massive repatriation exercise ‘Vande Bharat Mission during the pandemic time, despite resistance from his family members, Saldanha decided to command the special flight. The flight from Dubai carrying 177 passengers and five infants landed at Kozhikode from Dubai on 7th May 2020. It wasn’t an easy flight for Saldanha as passengers including pregnant women, people needing immediate treatment, senior citizens needing continuous assistance and people who had lost their jobs were flying back home amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now once again coming to his daring evacuation efforts of stranded Indian students studying in Ukraine, Michael Saldanha has done it again BRAVELY, bringing home these students SAFELY! Narrating the evacuation story to Team Mangalorean Michael said, “We took off from Mumbai with an empty AI Express flight flying for almost 8 hours over the countries of Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria to finally reach Bucharest in Romania. Our crew consisted of 10 members, 4 pilots- Myself, Capt Kailas Ramachandran, First Officer Kaustav Kundu and First Officer Rahul Shirpurkar. Apart from us, there were 4 cabin crew, 2 Engineers and 2 Security Staff”.

He further said, “We flew into Bucharest in Romania and airlifted 182 stranded students. We had a 1.5-hour halt in Bucharest where the students boarded the flight. The return leg from Bucharest to Mumbai had a stopover in Kuwait for refuelling and catering uplift. I commanded two evacuation flights -one from Bucharest, Romania with 182 students and the other flight carrying 185 students evacuated from Budapest to Mumbai. I personally interacted with the students, and it was heart touching to hear the hardships and agony faced by them when they were stranded in the freezing temperatures in Ukraine”.

08/03/22 Alfie Dsouza/Mangalorean

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