Forty-year-old H.S. Ahluwalia, who co-piloted the Air India Express IX-812 which crashed in Mangalore on Saturday, was under pressure from his family to quit flying and manage the family business of manufacturing automobile spare parts.

According to acquaintance Ram Mohan Pai, who is also Director of the Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mangalore, Ahluwalia was the youngest child in the family and was considered the brightest. Ahluwalia is survived by three brothers and a sister.

“His family, which stays in Mumbai, runs a business of manufacturing automobile spare parts in Gujarat. They wanted him to quit flying and join the family business. He was also under pressure from the family to marry and settle down. He had never shown any interest in marriage even though his family had brought a couple of proposals,” Mr. Pai told The-Hindu.

Ahluwalia, who had been resisting marriage, was planning purchase a flat in Mangalore and settle down here. His body, identified on Saturday night on the basis of his beard and long hair, was flown to Mumbai on Sunday.

Ahluwalia's elder brother accompanied the body to the family's residence in Andheri East, Mumbai. Incidentally, the pilot's brother was afraid of flying and had not boarded an aircraft since 1982. However, he overcame his phobia to receive his brother's body, said sources close to Ahluwalia.

Air India staff had gathered on the tarmac to bade the final farewell to Ahluwalia, whom they described as a “jovial person.” The pilot was due for promotion shortly, said Chairman and Managing Director of Air India Arvind Jadhav.

Glusica on Facebook

Captain Z. Glusica, the 53-year-old pilot of the Air India Express flight, was described by Mangalore airport officials as a person with “strong family values.”

According to his profile on the social networking website Facebook, the pilot, who is of Serbian origin, is married and has three children named as Merima, Aleksandar and Dunja.

He was working with Air India Express since October 2008.

Captain Glusica passed from the JAT Airways Flight Academy in Serbia and had logged in more than 10,000 hours of flying.

Friends posted messages on Facebook saying Glusica will be missed as a “great friend” and as a pilot. “Sincere condolences to the family of Glusica….. and God bless the Zlatko soul,” wrote a friend Dusanca Borcik Petkovic.

Another friend, Tahir Fhilipovic, was shocked to learn about the mishap. “I can't believe it! You'll be missed as a great friend and a pilot. God bless your soul.”

He grew up watching planes

Rahi Gaikwad reports

from Mumbai:

As a child, Ahluwalia was especially fascinated by airplanes. This co-pilot of the ill-fated Air India Express IX-812 grew up watching them. His house in the suburb of Andheri is a short auto-ride from the Mumbai airport.

“As kids, we would see the planes flying above. It was his passion to become a pilot,” Ahluwalia's childhood friend, who did not wish to be named, told The-Hindu. Captain Otis D'Souza, a retired Air India pilot and Ahluwalia's instructor at the Bombay Flying Club had unbounded praise for his old-time student. “He was the first student in my first batch, 20 years ago. He is the best student I have ever known, my favourite. There was no better student than him. He was knowledgeable, lovable and affectionate and at the top of his class.”

Ahluwalia's scrapbook, where he had collected information on navigation and communication equipment was “an encyclopedia,” said the doting teacher.

“It was the most unusual and amazing scrapbook. It was informative even for me. How did he get all that information? He would write to the equipment companies, he read a lot and had gathered all the latest information. And this was 20 years ago, before the Internet age. His would acquire knowledge from anybody,” recalled Captain D'Souza.

Having lost his father much earlier, Ahluwalia lived with his mother. But for the tragic incident on Saturday, two important events would have taken place in Ahluwalia's life.

“Before leaving for Mangalore, he had agreed that he would get married. He wanted his sister to marry first,” said family friend Sanjeev Bhalla.

‘Man of principles'

Calling Ahluwalia “a man of principles,” Mr. Bhalla recalled an instance where the co-pilot had refused to pay a bribe to clear a test.

“Had this incident not happened, he would have gone for his command training,” said Harpreet A.D. Singh, coordinator of emergency operations and general manager, Quality unit, Air India. She said the airline had sent Ahluwalia's reports to the investigating teams. “All his tests are clear. There is no failure anywhere.”

On Sunday, family and friends gathered at the house, awaiting his body, which was flown from Mangalore in the evening. Republican Party of India leader Ramdas Athavale visited the family in the afternoon.

“His mother is still in a distressed state. I told the family this was a tragedy that had befallen on the entire nation, that they were not alone and that we shared their grief,” Mr. Athavale told journalists.

More In: National | News