On solo sortie, trainee pilot from city dies in Pachmarhi air crash

PuneSohail Zahiruddin Ansari; (inset) debris of the aircraft in the jungles of Sitadongri, Madhya Pradesh

Five months from now, Sohail Zahiruddin Ansari, 19, would have become a commercial pilot. Six months ago when he flew his first solo at the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udan Academy (IGRUA) in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh, his father Zahiruddin Ansari, 44, had distributed cake in the basti off Tadiwala Road. It was a proud moment for a father, a small time bakery owner, who had borrowed money from his friends and relatives to pay Sohail's course fee of Rs 40 lakh. He even took a loan from a bank for which his friend has mortgaged his house.

On Wednesday evening, when Sohail's death in an air crash was reported, his father, a heart patient, was in Gondia on the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh border pinning his hope on the IAF's search operation in Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh. Sohail, who was on a solo training flight on his DS 40 aircraft,

had gone from there on Tuesday afternoon. "He is still missing. The IAF captain told me not to trust anyone and wait till the black box of the aircraft is found," Ansari said over phone.

Chhindwara district police chief Purshottam Sharma said local villagers informed the police about the plane crash, after which a search was launched. While it was not immediately known as to what caused the crash, the Chhindwara police said the pilot, Sohail Ansari (19), lost his way due to the fog. The body of the pilot was found Wednesday near Belakhadi in the Pachmarhi hills.

After finishing Class 12 from Wadia College in 2012, when Sohail first told his father that he wanted to become a commercial pilot like his friend Sumit, Ansari told him that the family had no money to pay the fees. The only source of income for his family of six, including two sisters and two brothers was a small bakery. Even if the family mortgaged their 10 X 12 sq ft room, the money would not have been enough for the fee.

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