A Lucky Pilot - Pakistan Aviation

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Wing Commander Lanky Ahmad passed away on October 12, 2004 at Lahore, Pakistan where he was born in 1924 and is buried in the Pakistan Air Force graveyard located just before the landing strip of the Lahore International Airport runway.

August, 1965
Forced Landing at a Paddy-Field in East Pakistan

I was the Director of Aerodromes in Pakistan from 1965 to 1968. During one of the inspection visits of East Pakistan, I flew to Sylhet from Dacca in a two seater Cessna 150 aircraft. My passenger was Mr. Rukunddin, Executive Engineer of the Pakistan Works Department. We had receive complaints from the PIA that the runway of Sylhet Airport was giving in at some places and the pilots were alarmed with the situation.

After inspection of the Airfield, we took off for Dacca. The weather was cloudy and due to the Moonsoon rains, the greater part of the terrain was inundated. It was difficult to recognise one rive from the other. Half an hour before the E.T.A. I descended below the clouds. We could not find any pinpoint to set our course correctly for Dacca. It was getting dark when we did find a railway line. I was sure that it would take us to our destination, as the famous saying was that "all the roads lead up to Rome in Italy". There was no R/T contact due to the fact that we were flying at low altitude. I had already consumed three and half hours of fuel which included 1.45 hours on the outward journey to Sylhet where 100 octane gas was not available.

After a little while, I realised that I was heading towards the East on the way to Ishurdy instead of Dacca. I told my passenger that we had lost our way, and there was hardly any fuel left in the tank. With a 'Toddy' beard which he was wearing, he started saying his prayers loudly. I had already decided to put the plane down on the first available piece of dry land. Before I could find one, the engine cut. Poor Rukunddin began crying and said, that he had a big family and there was nobody else to look after them if he died. I consoled and calmed him down as much I could and told him to tighten his security belts.

It was quite dark and to our good luck we had just managed to brush through some wires and landed straight ahead into a watered paddy field. After a little distance, the aircraft entered a small Nallah (drain) and we nosed over, in a tail up position. The X-en hit the staring wheel and was bleeding from the mouth and forehead but continued reciting the verses from the Holy Quran. Before I could get out to help him he had already jumped out from the door, which got opened due to the impact in the ditch. By the time, I came out of the aircraft he was already in a "Sajjada' and kissing the ground.

There was a Court of enquiry into the near fatal accident and I was grounded for three months. Luckily, I was not on active flying, as such the period passed away quickly. At that time, the deciding authority for such enquiries was the Director General of Civil Aviation, Air Commodore B. K. Dass. He himself was involved in a similar accident in 1953 near Amritsar when he lost his way to Lahore from Peshawar, due to poor visibility in the area. I was fortunate to return to Karachi on the 3rd September. It was P.I.A's last flight over India before the 1965 War. Khawaja Shahabuddin, the Interior Minister in the government was also on board the aircraft, and told me to tell the PIA crew to keep the Indian Radio news on, during the flight. Sure enough, the flights over the Indian territory were terminated the next day, and the War with India began on the 6th of September.

The flights in East Pakistan were always full of interesting incidents. Once the Shahinshah of Iran was on a Tiger shoot at the Shamsher Nagar hills. As normal, he and his party saw many pug marks but did not bag a single Tiger. He did not sit in a 'Machan' as it was a day's shoot on the jeep.

Once I was flown to Sunderban, the famous tiger shoot area in the world, in the Governor's amphibian aircraft. My host was Mr. Khalil Omer, the President of the Dacca Flying Club, who along with his foreign guests had already gone to the shooting site as I was late to arrive from Karachi. We landed in the river just before dusk. A sleek 'Sampa' with a boatman was waiting to take me to a 'Machan', a few miles away from the base camp. On the way I shot a deer from the boat. The poor animal just stood dazed on bank of the river, when a torch light was focused on him. It was the first and the last inhuman thing which I did in my life. At the 'Machan' I sat for a few hours before dawn. When there was no sign of a Tiger, I came down, and saw the lucky goat still alive and standing there. At the breakfast table in the main camp everybody shot some "Lines' or the other but not the real 'Lions'. Indeed, everyone saw some kind of pug marks.

In the early fifties, we flew to Lal-Munir-Hut, a border town between India and Pakistan. The Regiment was under the canvas pitched at the airfield. It was commanded by Lt. Col. Akhtar Ali Malik, a brave soldier who crossed the Chumb and Jaurian sector in 1965 War. He was stopped by the government and replaced by General Yahya Khan, who could not consolidate the initiative which was already achieved by his predecessor. General Akhtar was removed because he was considered to be too ambitious, like General MaCarthar of the U.S.A. He could have accelerated the war at the International border which the American Government did not want. Since I knew him personally he wanted us to make a night stop and play a game of bridge, however, we did have a few hands before we departed for Dacca in the evening. My second pilot was late Wing Commander N. A. Sheikh, the base Commander East Pakistan who was also crazy about bridge. Next day, we flew to Jessore for another inspection visit. We drove to the Khulna Boat Club, where we had a good lunch with my brother Bashir and late Lt. Col. Waheed Niazi, a family friend and his wife 'Jija'.

Once in 1952, I was a second pilot, flying Khawaja Nazimuddin, the Governor-General from Dacca to Karachi in his Viking aircraft. Being a real Nawab he was very fond of good food and fruit. While eating himself in the aircraft he normally used to send some dishes to the crew in the cockpit. The big juicy '"Rasgoolas' from Ranga-Mati were his favourite 'dessert'. We were also presented with a few bunches of delicious big bananas from the Jang Shahi district, when we disembarked at our destination.

Whenever, there were floods or cyclonic storms, we spent many anguished days and nights in Dacca and Chittagong for relief work. Every time we saw hundred of swollen human bodies along with the animal's carcasses scattered around the beaches and off shore islands. It was always a pathetic and disturbing scene, and I never had a proper sleep at night. Such calamities occurred a bit too often in those days, which made me see every nook and corner of the land which was once part of our country.

I flew General Azam Khan and later Governor Munim Khan whenever they inspected the marooned areas like Coxe's Bazar and Sundip Island, helping the affected people in the rains and storms.

Although East Pakistan is separated from us but such tragic memories don't fade away easily.