The trainee pilot was killed in a mid-air collision in the Philippines
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A beaming bespectacled photograph of Varsha G. Pillai, pasted on the compound wall leading to her house ‘Shree,’ greeted mourners on Friday morning as they gathered to pay homage to a girl who dreamed of making it big as ‘an airline pilot’ one day.
Dressed in official aviation gear and encased in a white coffin, the body of the 18-year-old trainee pilot who was killed in a mid-air collision at Bulacan in the Philippines on July 8 was brought to her house at Eenchakkal here around 8.50 a.m. in an ambulance.
Heart-rending scenes followed as Varsha’s body was kept on display in the drawing room of the house for the public to pay their tribute. Her parents, N. Gopinathan Pillai and Jaya Gopinath, remained inconsolable.
Varsha and her instructor Patrick Philip Teruel were killed when their Cessna collided with another light plane of the same make in which another Indian student, Reena Salve, was flying, at an altitude of 500 ft.
Jun Castelo, chief flight instructor, World City College for Aviation, the Philippines, where Varsha was undergoing a seven-month ‘Commercial Pilot Training Programme’ told The Hindu that “the collision occurred after the plane received the ground clearance for landing.”
Mr. Castelo who was among the mourners described Varsha as “a silent and a little shy girl” who responded intelligently to the questions posed by her instructors. “She always wanted to fly solo. It was her ambition to become an airline pilot,” said Mr. Castelo. He said a press conference would be convened in the city to clear all “disinformation relating to the air crash.”
The demise of Varsha was also a loss for the management of Daughters of St. Joseph’s Convent, Nedumbassary, in whose hostel she stayed for nearly six months while studying at the Air Titan Pilot Training Institute in Kochi. “Even when she went for the training programme in the Philippines, Varsha was quite particular about maintaining contact with us,” says Thomas Kunnunkal, a nun attached to the convent. Since she was the youngest at the hostel, we all had a special affection for her,” said Sr. Kunnunkal.
The funeral took place at the Thycaud crematorium in the afternoon.