20 wounded on board, and we were hit by air defence missile – pilot describes his missions to Azovstal

Ukrayinska Pravda

20 wounded on board, and we were hit by air defence missile – pilot describes his missions to Azovstal

Iryna Balachuk – June 2, 2022


A helicopter pilot, who carried out missions to deliver supplies and evacuate the wounded from Azovstal, recounts how they prepared for the missions, what risks were involved, how Russian occupiers shot down the helicopter of his comrade-in-arms, and how he was able to fly with one engine not working to the landing site and thus save the 20 people on board.

Source: Land Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, on Facebook

Quote from the pilot, whose identity is not disclosed: “The main difficulty was that it was necessary to deliver the cargo into the depth of the enemy-held area, which was ​​larger than 100 km. The enemy’s air defence was very dense throughout this area, and it was not only difficult – it was almost impossible to achieve. But practice has shown that it is possible, and we achieved it.”

Details: According to the pilot, at the landing zone at “Azovstal” alone there were three different anti-aircraft missile systems. Therefore, the pilots tried not to enter the area within reach of those systems. To achieve this, it was important to be aware of all the natural and man-made obstacles along the way.

The pilot added that when the task was assigned, the whole crew understood that in 90% of cases they would not return, but at the same time everyone realised that delivering supplies and picking up people was essential, so they decided to take these chances.

According to him, the greatest anxiety was felt when they walked to the helicopter before the launch; once underway, everyone understood that it’s just a job and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

Quote: “But once [we arrived] in Mariupol, when the cargo was being unloaded, the feeling was one of euphoria. It seemed to us that since we succeeded in arriving and standing here – within reach of three anti-aircraft missile systems – and we were unloading, we are like kings of the world, we had already won, and everything would be fine.

But on the way back, at the 6th kilometre – three minutes after take-off – my helicopter was hit by a Man-portable air-defence missile – and one engine failed. Another helicopter behind me was less fortunate, it crashed and the entire crew was killed. “

Details: He explained that each pilot has written guidance that it is their own decision to take off and land, so when his helicopter was hit by a missile, he chose to fly to the landing site.

Quote: “After the missile hit, we had an adrenaline rush – and we just did what we had to do. There were 20 wounded on board, and we understood that if we were to land somewhere in the field, how would they be picked up and evacuated further? Another helicopter would be needed, and this would become an unplanned operation – so we just flew to the landing site.”


Later, the founder and first commander of the Azov Regiment, Andriy Biletskyi, noted the exceptional heroism of the helicopter crews that delivered reinforcements, weapons, medicine and other essentials to the defenders of Mariupol blockaded by the Russian Federation.

Author: John Hanno

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.