“Bhangoo”

Brig Zaka Ullah Bhangoo (Late) was from 38 PMA Long Course. After passing out from PMA, he was posted to 23 FF and later joined Aviation. He died in an air crash in Turkey 0n 12 May 2007.

Brig Bhangoo was a true gem of a person who left a vacuum in every life he has touched. May Allah give him eternal peace, and keep his blessed memory alive, Ameen.

– “Bhangoo”. An inspiring article, written by an Air Def officer, Lt Col Adil Akhtar, who was also a POW in India with Brig Bhangoo. {Read the article here}

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Sewerage Water Tastes Saltish

Brig (R) Hashim Khan

Pakistan Army Aviation got the Cobra helicopters in Feb 1985, and a formal induction ceremony was planned on 20 Mar 1985 to be held at Qasim Avn Base, Dhamial. Brig Nauman (Late) was the Base Commander at that time, so the planning of the ceremony rested on his shoulders. Besides display of various manoeuvres of Cobra helicopters, he had also planned to show the spectators, Nap of Earth (NOE) flying, which was basically very low flying. Brig Nauman had selected a route which came along a nullah in the South of Qasim Base, and went past 503 Workshop, the one we crossed over a bridge if we entered the Base from Tulsa Road side. It’s the same nullah which carries all the shit from half of Pindi. On 8th Mar 1985, Brig Nauman took Col Riffat Beg Humayun, the Commander of Combat Group, and me in an Alouette III helicopter for the route recce. Why me? Because I was the sucker to fly the NOE part of the demonstration, and I had objected that the route was not suitable for a Cobra helicopter. We entered the nullah from Adiala Road side, and half way down the route, I once again objected that Cobra is more in height and length and wouldn’t be able to negotiate the bends in the nullah at such a low level.

Col Riffat gave me that “You chicken shit” look, and Brig Nauman said, “Keyun, dar gaye ho?”He may have said some more things but at that very moment the main rotors of our Alouette hit a small outcrop of a rock on the nullah bank and in we went into the muck.

Things could have turned very ugly for Col Riffat. Brig Nauman was sitting in the right seat, Col Riffat on the left, and I was in the middle seat. Since the helicopter had settled with its left side down on the nullah bed, so Brig Nauman was the first one out, followed by me. We waited a while for Col Riffat to come out, and when he didn’t, I dived back in that shit, got him un-entangled and we both came out. That’s when I had my first taste of sewerage water. It was saltish.

The helicopter was fully submerged, and there was no way to communicate with Control Tower, and a lot of people had started to collect, we decided to walk back towards the Base, lest the villagers started beating us for some other reason ie. ” bird watching.”

We reached the barbed wire at the undershoot side of dumble 32 and as we were helping each other to climb it, an MODC sepoy turned up from nowhere and with a rifle pointing said “Tham, Haath Ooper”.

He refused to believe that this gentleman with us, stinking to high heavens, was the Base Commander, and we too were officers. After a lot of cajoling he allowed us to climb over the fence, but all this while he kept pointing his rifle at us, coupled with very aggressive expressions on his face. We were walking past panel 4 when the search and rescue helicopter arrived and gave us lift till the Base Headquarters. Brig Nauman quickly washed himself and changed into a clean coverall, but Col Riffat and myself stayed in our scented coveralls. At one point I got a whiff of fresh sewerage water, I guess Col Riffat may have burped.

The funniest part came when the court of inquiry started. The president asked me, ” What were your reactions as an IP on the machine, when the rotors hit the ground”.

I told him , “It is an irrelevant question. Nobody can fly a helicopter without it’s main rotors. What could I do?”

But the president stayed adamant and insisted on an answer. So I told him ” When the rotors hit the ground, I said ‘Oh, Shit! and the next second we were in it.”

Yep friends, we had landed in shit.

On a closing note, let me say that it’s good to walk out of an aircraft crash, and live to tell the story, even if one walks out of shit.

Lessons Learnt:
a. Never be too over confident during NOE flying.
b. Never take your eyes off the ground ahead and on the sides.
c. Always listen to your co-pilot.
d. Sewerage water is saltish in taste.

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Nostalgic Memories of Rawalpindi

Lt Col (R) Rashid Zia Cheema

I have some nostalgic memories of Rawalpindi . I first passed through ‘Pindi’ in 1963 while going to Murree where our family spent the whole summer vacations. Pindi was a sleepy town in those days and the only prominent roads were The Mall and Murree Road. Then I spent my summer vacations in Islamabad in 1966 when my father was constructing his house near Poly Clinic. I used to come to Saddar on Walji’s Volks Wagon micro bus. It was my first encounter with Pindi . The next short visits were between 1967 to 1971 staying with my uncle who was a surgeon in Holy Family Hospital.

In Nov 1971, I again passed through Pindi while going to ISSB Kohat and coming back. Later in the same month, I along with many cadets boarded on a Rail Car from Lahore and arrived at Rawalpindi railway station. We had lunch in a restaurant at Haathi Chowk, Saddar and then booked a wagon and reached PMA, Kakul.

I really got acquainted with Pindi when I landed in Army Avn School Dhamial in 1975 for helicopter training. Avn Mess was near Charing Cross on Peshawar Road (It is still there). In the evening, all the student officers used to go to Saddar almost daily on a taxi or on foot to see a movie, eat out or just roam around on Bank Road and adjoining streets.

Going down the memory lane, I recall many more activities. Bank Road was a hub of activities in the evening for all Army officers. One could invariably find one’s Course mates and unit officers there who came to Pindi from all over Pakistan for an interview in GHQ or waiting for PIA flight and clear weather for onward move to Northern Areas. Some were attending course at Signals School and many were on their way to attend courses in Murree, Abbotabad, Nowshera, Risalpur, Cherat, Peshawar, etc.

We used to have cone ice cream from a machine located on Bank Road near its intersection with Kashmir Road. We often ate Dahi Bhallay from a vendor in front of National Bank of Pakistan (behind Cirose Cinema) or at a shop in Chotta Bazaar, Saddar. A tikka-kebab shop in Bau (Baboo) Mohallah was frequently visited (Does it still exist?). After that, fresh lime with soda (Available in front of Cantonment Hosp), was a must for digesting the BBQ stuff. Occasionally had tikka-kebab from Rose Restaurant adjacent to Cirose cinema. Also had ice cream from Super on Bank Road whose owner was a bald man (Does anyone remember his name?). Some times we went to Lalkurti and had paan from a shop whose owner became famous after appearing in “Zia Mohy-ud-Din Show”. His paan varieties had very strange names. One such variety was called “Unn say na kehna“. Used to have Hunter Beef from Broadway Bakery. In those days Hunter Beef was readily available in ordinary bakeries in Saddar and even in Lalkurti. I don’t remember going to Flashman’s Hotel or Silver Grill. Very rarely, we visited Intercontinental Hotel (Now Pearl Continental) and that too to have only tea or coffee. We fuqras didn’t have enough money to have dinner there. On most of the occasions, we went to the swimming pool, sat on pool side chairs for a while and came out without having anything. Reason?….. No money.

We went to see classic English movies in Plaza, Odeon or Cirose cinemas, all located in Saddar area. On weekends, we always went for the last show (9 to 12). On other days we preferred 6 to 9 show.

I still remember the lush green lawn of Pindi Cub, as late as 1975, having cluster of pine trees. Its gates opened on The Mall and there were no Plazas facing The Mall (It is now engulfed by “concrete jungle” of plazas). I also remember the British era cane chairs spread in the sprawling lawn which was surrounded by tall whispering pines. We used to have crispy French Fries served with Tomato Ketchup and a steamy hot cup of tea/coffee. Some of the students (No names) used to enjoy Draft beer in antique silver Beer mugs and had roasted peanuts. Beer was not my forte but I used to play hell with peanuts and most of them were fed up of me. Who can forget the Tambola organised in the old Ball Room which had a wooden floor? The Snow Ball often carried hefty amount and everyone was eager to get the prize.

If you go to Pindi Club before Lunch time even today, you will find a jolly group of old timers sitting in the lawn and having tea and gupp-shupp. They are still maintaining the old tradition, cane chairs or no cane chairs.

“Yeh mein nay koun say taar chairr diyye hain?” Sorry, I was just carried away. ”Yaad-e-maazi aazaab hai ya Rab!”
I remained in Pindi Cantt from 1975 to 1980. I again came back here in Aug 1993 and haven’t left the city since then. I have fully enjoyed each day of my stay in this city. How about you?

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The Highest Landing by an Alouette III in the World-August 1983

Brig (R) Hashim Khan
On a sunny morning of 4 August 1983, a member of a Belgian expedition team came to the KKH Detachment at Gilgit and told us that a few days ago, one of their members fell and tumbled a few hundred feet while climbing Rakaposhi, and now he can’t stand up. They had brought him down till Camp 5 and after that he can’t be carried further down. He said Camp 5 was at 5,500 metres. I was the capt of Alouette III and Maj Azam (Later Maj Gen) was my co-pilot, on continuation training.

We took off for their Base Camp which was upstream of Jaglot Gah. After landing we were told that Camp 5 was at 6,000 metres. After calculations we realised that it was not possible to take the co-pilot and then take off from that altitude with the casualty. So I decided to leave Maj Azam at the Base Camp. To keep a further safety, I got some fuel drained, got the skis, seats, and rear sliding doors removed. All my calculations were for landing and take off from 6,000 metres.

I took off alone, and kept climbing till I came abreast Camp 5 and my altimeter read 6,500 metres, on standard atmospheric settings, which was 200 metres more than the permitted altitude for Alt III helicopter. Anyway, the chopper was handling fine, so I decided to go in. Since I had used the updraft for a quick climb, was already short on fuel, and the location of Camp was such that I had no choice but to make the approach in tail wind.

Just at the short finals, my fuel gauge warning light flickered for the first time. I touched down just at the edge of the mountain side, so as to keep some portion of my rotor disc in the strong updraft, and since there weren’t any skis, so I kept the helicopter light on wheels, and since there were no rear sliding doors, there was no problem when the other members of expedition loaded the casualty in the helicopter. At that time my altimeter was reading slightly more than 6,500 metres.

I took off backwards and when I was well clear of the mountain, I made a left pedal turn and shoved the cyclic forward to build up speed and utilise the advantage of translational lift. The helicopter responded beautifully and at no time I had to pull more than 1 collective. There was virtual jubilation at the Base Camp. On our return flight to Gilgit, the fuel gauge light had stayed glowing continuously for 14 minutes, and when we landed at Gilgit helipad, we had just one more minute of fuel to go.
Maj Azam broke the news to DC Gilgit, who in turn gave it to newspapers, and that’s when shit hit the fan. Just a couple of weeks earlier, Maj JJ (Javed Jehan) had picked a casualty from 14,000 feet in a Puma and he was given a warning by higher ups. I had landed the chopper at an altitude which was almost 1000 feet higher than the permissible altitude (service ceiling ). An Alt III has a service ceiling of 21,000 feet and I had landed at 22,000 feet. A C of I was ordered and I knew my goose is cooked. Meanwhile the rest of the expedition reached Gilgit. We requested them not to give the correct altitude of Camp 5. Our stand was that it was located at 20,500 feet which would be 500 feet lower than service ceiling. The C of I had already found me guilty of violating fourteen SOPs, and operating higher than the service ceiling would have been a big nail in my coffin. I was already selected for a course on Cobras in USA and any flight safety violation would have debarred me from the course for 200 hours or 1 year (such were the rules then).

The C of I was in the final stages of completion in Avn Dte, when the King of Belgium announced their highest peace time medal for bravery. When Gen Zia learnt about this, he reciprocated by telling Brig Trimzi to forget the C of I and send a citation instead. I got ” Order of Leopold” from Belgium, which the protocol demanded to be conferred by the King himself, but I couldn’t go to Belgium because of contingencies of service.

Since the previous record for highest landing by Alt III was 19,5000 feet, which was at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, and I had landed at 22,000 feet (verified from the expedition), which was a new record for Alt III helicopter, so Aero Spatial also wanted to honour me, but again due to contingencies of service my availability was denied.

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In Memory of Brig Bhangoo

Attached is a three minutes audio clip on Late Brig Bhangoo. The tribute comes from the book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.

Tributes to Bhangoo by Greg Mortenson in his book “Three Cups of Tea”

On a side note: As of 2010, Mortenson has established or significantly supports 171 schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to over 64,000 children, including 54,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before. For more on Greg Mortenson, click here

Contributed by Shah Alam

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Col Comdt’s Speech At Avn History Book Launching Ceremony

  • Brig Jabbar, the senior most Pioneer Aviator amongst us today, Begum AB Awan, wife of Lt Gen AB Awan, the father figure of Army Avn, Lt Gen ® Farrukh, the 4th Col Comdt of Army Avn, Maj Gen ®  Askari, the first GOC of Army Avn, Maj Gen Arif Nazir, the present GOC of Army Avn, Maj Gen Nasser Khan Janjua VCGS, Gen offrs, Brig Tipu, Comd 101 Avn Gp, brother offrs, ladies and gentlemen, Asalaam-o-Alaikum.

Continue reading

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Aviation History Book Launching Ceremony

Dear Aviators,

AOA
    The Book launching Ceremony was finally organized at Qasim Army Avn Base Dhamial on 23rd Jul 10. It was a great event superbly organized by GOC Army Avn Maj Gen Arif Nazir and Comd Qasim Base (101 Army Avn Gp) Brig Tipu Karim and their respective teams. The Chief Guest was Brig (R)  Jabbar, the senior most living Aviator. Begum Lt Gen (R) A B Awan also graced the occassion. Senior serving and retired Aviators attended the ceremony. (Sorry folks due to the limited capacity of Jamil Auditorium in Dhamial, the attendance was by invitation only and thus, everyone could not be invited, as we would have loved to do so). I have come to know that some people were missed, but that is primarily due to incomplete data aval with Avn Comd/Qasim Base. However, on behalf of Army Avn, please accept my apologies for all those who were missed out.
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Last Flight from East Pakistan

Following article was contributed by Brig (Retd) Rasheed Beg

Last Flight from East Pakistan

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Avn History – Book Launching

Dear Aviators,  AOA

You will be glad to know that compilation and printing of  Avn History  is complete since the last few months. We are just waiting for a formal launching before distributing these to all. Serving Aviators have already paid a token amount for these while retired Aviators will recieve a complimentory copy. The launch ceremony is planned on 9 Jun 10 (tentatively) at Rawalpindi. Further info will fol.

Maj Gen Waqar Ahmad Kingravi
Col Comdt Army Avn

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Hallmark of Aviators

COMMUNICATION is the hallmark of the Aviators. Without it we could neither take-off nor land. Indeed, life is made up of take-offs and landings. Each of us is a beacon transmitting signals of concern and love for each other. All we need to do is tune-in.

Live with passion
Col Masood Anwar Khan

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