|17 February 1951 – 20 August 1971|
|Place of birth||Karachi, Sindh|
|Place of death||Sindh|
|Years of service||1971|
|Unit||Pakistan Air Force|
|Commands held||PAF strike Command|
Rashid Minhas belongs to famous Minhas clan of Rajput. He was born in Karachi. From an early age, Minhas was fascinated about the aviation history and technology. He had collected different models of aircraft and jets. He studied from Saint Patrick's High School, Karachi. He attended Karachi University where he studied military history and Aviation history.
Fighting against Hijacking
It was Friday, the 20th of August, 1971. Three pilot officers were to take their T-33 planes on test flights as part of their training at the P.A.F. Masroor Base near Karachi. This was a complete exercise; the instructor was not going to sit in the rear cockpit of the plane as a back up pilot.
The T-33 "T-Bird" plane is a "fighter trainer" aircraft. It has two cockpits, and both the cockpits have control over the plane. The instructor uses the controls in the rear cockpit to correct the mistakes of the trainee in case there are any. The pilots of the three airplanes which were to complete their test flight on August 20th were in a training phase which required a solo flight with the T-33.
By 11:25 a.m., two of the planes had already taken off. At 11:26 a.m., the 20 year old pilot of the third plane, Rashid Minhas, received clearance from the control tower to take off.
While he was moving the plane in a position for take off, a certain figure signalled him for danger from the side of the tarmac. It was Safety Flight Officer Muti-ur-Rehman, one of the best pilot instructors at that P.A.F. base. The danger signal was used primarily to identify a technical problem with the aircraft, hence Rashid stopped his plane. He opened the cockpit and stood up to ask about the obstruction. Due to the noise created by the planes, it is common norm for one to come close to the other and talk; things cannot be shouted across a length of 8-10 feet. Rashid allowed the instructor to come close to him, and while he was preparing to ask him about the possible technical difficulty, the instructor got hold of him and succeeded in rendering him partially unconscious using a chloroform sprayed handkerchief.
Once Rashid was down, the instructor called a couple of his partners and said, "I am going to Jodhpur (India). You pick up my family and go to the Indian High Commission at Karachi. Take refuge there".
The instructor's selection of Rashid was perhaps not just by chance. He perhaps narrowed down on the options by first selecting the group of pilots who had lesser knowledge/ experience with flying (the Pilot Officers) and then, from those pilots, selected the one pilot who appeared to be physically the weakest. Himself a well built man, and a brilliant pilot, I would have to say that his plan was accurate, and under the circumstances the odds were much in favor of Muti-ur-Rehman.
At 11:28:29 a.m., as Muti-ur-Rehman ignited the plane and prepared to take off, the semi conscious Rashid Minhas contacted the control tower and told them that he is being kidnapped. He told them that they should stop the partners of Muti-ur-Rehman from getting to the Indian High Commission. 2 minutes later, the control tower replied by telling him that he should try and stop the plane from being skyjacked.
The plane took off at 11:31, 40 seconds after the control tower had given the orders to Minhas.
Despite the fact that the Instructor was armed, the drugged Minhas tried to fight with him. The effort however was in vain. Muti-ur-Rehman was too powerful for him.
At 11:33:26,a.m., communication with the control tower was broken. The 20 year old under training Pilot Officer was henceforth on his own in dealing with a physically more powerful, armed antagonist, who was far superior to Minhas in aircraft flying as well. His last standing orders were to stop the plane from being skyjacked.
The P.A.F. base sent out some planes to look for the skyjacked T-33A. The P.A.F radars were also in full operation trying to look for the exact coordinates of the plane. They tried for three hours, but could not find it. How was it possible that a plane which has been hijacked 10 or 20 minutes ago could not be detected on the radar?
The enemy had tricked the P.A.F. He was flying at 30 to 40 feet above the ground, which is an exceptional feat by itself. The P.A.F. planes trying to find the T-33A were thousands of feet in the air, their radars could not pick the skyjacked T-33A; it was too low.
Bravery is embodied in standing up to a difficult task, in not giving in and persisting with what you believe in and what your duty is. Minhas didn't eject, he didn't come to any financial understanding with Muti-ur-Rehman and neither did he stand down in face of a gun or the physical superiority of his foe. He kept trying to take the plane higher, left or right, but Muti-ur-Rehman had the Instructor controls, and he would bring it back to the original situation after a slight reaction time.
His mission being to stop the plane from being skyjacked, Minhas had run out of all other options but one.
The T-33A is about 34 to 35 feet in length. It was flying around 30 to 40 feet above the ground. Minhas finally turned the direction of the plane towards the earth. Muti-ur-Rehman must have tried to override this action by Minhas but the reaction time was much longer than it took for the tip of the plane to hit the ground.
The plane crashed in the ground and blew up. Both the 20-year-old and his former instructor died immediately.
Minhas was posthumously awarded Pakistan's top military honour, the Nishan-E-Haider, and became the youngest man and the only member of the Pakistan Air Force to win the award. He also became a national hero. The Pakistan Air Force base at Kamra has been renamed in his honour. In Karachi he was honored by naming main street, Rashid Minhas Road (Urdu: شاہراہ راشد منہاس ), after him. He is one of the most prominent and honored Pilot in Pakistan. He has been honored by the Pakistani Media and numerous documentary dramas and films have been made upon on him.
Source: Pedia View