Squadron Leader Vernon Desmond Keane

New Delhi. 14 August 2018. On 16 Nov 17, Squadron Leader VD Keane was authorised to lead a 4 Vs 2 air combat mission. During route out towards the sector, “Engine 2 Reheat Zone Fire Warning Light” came ON. He took prompt and correct emergency actions and decided to switch off the engine to contain the spread of fire. Thereafter, he astutely assessed his position, aircraft configuration and wind conditions and decided to head for opposite runway for fastest recovery. A single engine recovery on a Jaguar aircraft is known to be critical and challenging for landing. Showing presence of mind in a dangerous situation, he took correct cockpit actions including jettisoning fuel towards single engine recovery.

While positioning for a landing, the “Fire Warning” also came on for the second engine. Already on a single engine, which was now on fire too, he was faced with the prospect of landing with a grave aircraft emergency or taking a decision of abandoning the aircraft by ejection. Showing great presence of mind and fearlessness, he decided to go in for a landing, fully knowing the dangers to his life. He landed the aircraft safely and carried an emergency exit after stopping the aircraft. Post flight inspection revealed prominent signs of fire on keel surface of both engines.

Sqn Ldr VD Keane, despite being a young fighter pilot with limited experience was under immense pressure to handle a grave aircraft emergency of both engines on fire. He showed exceptional courage, resolve and excellent professionalism in carrying out a safe and expeditious recovery of the aircraft in a dynamic situation. Any delay or incorrect action in the critical stage of flying could have aggravated the situation rapidly and resulted in loss of the Jaguar aircraft. Further, had the aircraft been abandoned it could have led to extensive collateral damage on the ground to civilians and property.

For this act of exceptional courage in handling a grave aircraft emergency, Squadron Leader Vernon Desmond Keane is awarded Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry).