AGRA: When the first Vande Bharat flight took off on May 8, Captain Akhilesh Kumar was the first officer on the flight. Three months later, flying the same route, co-pilot Akhilesh died hours after the crash at the Calicut International Airport in Kozhikode on Friday. His family had been preparing for his homecoming when they got the news — his wife is due for delivery in less than a month and, till now, does not know she has lost her husband.
“Bhai had received a hearty welcome when he brought our people back home that day,” his cousin Yatendra Sharma said, recalling the first flight to bring back Indians stranded abroad. The pandemic was at its peak and airline staff working ceaselessly were taking a big risk. But for Akhilesh, this had always been more than a job.
His father, Tulasi Ram Sharma, runs a small business in Mathura. Home was a bustling space — he had two brothers and a sister. When he was pursuing his graduation, he started preparing for commercial pilot training. “He dropped out of graduation when he cleared his flying exams,” said Lokesh, his youngest brother, who also wants to become a commercial pilot.
In 2017, Akhilesh realised his childhood dream — he joined Air India Express as a pilot. His family had seen him last on June 8, when he came home to drop his wife, Megha. They had been married for just over a year and a half and she is due for delivery on September 1. He was going to be home for that. “His leave had just been approved,” Lokesh said.
A family member said his mortal remains will reach Mathura on Sunday morning.

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