Life as aerobatics - helicopter pilot Khabibullin’s story
(July 12, Tatar-Inform, Olga Pushko). Russia takes leave of pilot Ryafagatem Khabibullin, who heroically died during a combat sortie in Syria. He was a native of the village of Vyazovy Gai, the Ulyanovsk region. ATI-Times tells about life and death of the outstanding Tatar pilot.
Ryafagat Habibullin is a legendary personality of the Army Aviation. He is known by, probably, almost all military helicopter pilots of the country. Nearly 80 percent of Khabibullin’s personal flight book is heroic hours and minutes of the pilot and commander in difficult combat conditions.
However, there were no signs of such a brilliant career in his childhood. Ryafagat was born on March 28, 1965 in the village of Vyazovy Gai, the Ulyanovsk region, in a Tatar family. His parents worked at a farm for all their life, bringing up the children as laborers. All the brothers attended a rural school, served in the army and returned to the native village.
Older brothers of Ryafagat still plow, sow and harvest grain on the native land. But Ryafagat got sick with the sky, dreaming about being a pilot from the fourth grade.
Long way to dream
Ryafagat was a good student and sportsman. After high school, he tried to enter the Kachin Higher Military Aviation School. But doctors in the admissions committee declined his application due to the health. Then, Ryafagat failed to enter the the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School and went to military service at the 30th Guards Motorized Rifle Division named after the RSFSR Supreme Soviet, stationed in the Czechoslovak town of Zvolen.
He served in the reconnaissance anti-aircraft missile regiment. As Ryafagat said later, he had worked out wonderful endurance and will to win thanks to many kilometers of forced marches and raids.
During the service, Ryafagat made friends with pilots of the helicopter regiment based in Zvolen. They advised him how better to prepare for entering flight college.
The tips were effective as Habibullin enrolled in the Syzransk High Military Aviation School.
After graduating from school in 1988, Lieutenant Ryafagat Khabibullin was sent to the 55th Helicopter Regiment of Sevastopol.
Already in 1992, Ryafagat performed his first sortie during the Ossetian-Ingush conflict, followed by trips to the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, the war in Chechnya ...
Once, Mi-24 of Ryafagatya Khabibullina got under the heavy fire, receiving 97 bullet holes. One of the bullets hit his foot, while fragments flogged the leg and face. Losing consciousness, Captain Habibullin by incredible efforts could bring the damaged car to our units. Ryafagat said that thoughts about his beloved wife had helped him to return.
The captain spent eight months in hospitals, passing one operation followed by another. First, he was fighting for life and for the foot preservation, then - for the right to fly. That time, Khabibullin served the air base deputy head on flight training.
Five sorties per day
The second Chechen campaign kicked off for major Khabibullina August 15, 1999. They flew on a mission every day as soon as the sun rose, without any rest for five to seven hours a day.
Flying in narrow mountain gorges of Dagestan and Chechnya was difficult, because of limited space for helicopters maneuvering, while the air flows constantly interfered in the piloting process. But Habibullin brilliantly mastered his aircraft.
After completion of the second Chechen campaign and until the summer of 2008, Ryafagat constantly went to Chechnya for serving as commander of a separate helicopter regiment in the Khankala airport.
In August 2008, Khabibullin participated in the Georgian-South Ossetian armed conflict.
Ryafagat Khabibullin was not only a brave warrior, but also a great teacher. As high pilot-instructor, he trained about 30 pilots for combat operations in mountainous terrain with landings on highland area.
He was awarded two Orders of Courage, Order For Military Merit, and a number of medals.
However, Habibullin himself considered saved lives was true awards. He saved more than 40 officers and solders, often risking his life during difficult tasks in spite of bad weather or any protection.
Connection with native culture
Despite complexity of the chosen profession, the helicopter pilot always maintained contact with his native land and culture. The last time, Ryafagat Habibullin visited his native village in May, 2016. His mother still lives there. She is about 80 years old.
Friends and neighbors of Khabibullin say that Ryafagat and his two brothers grew up good and decent people, they have always honored their parents, customs and traditions of their people. Coming to the native village, Ryafagat certainly visited a mosque and graves of relatives.
Colonel Khabibullin gave birth to two sons. The older son followed father's footsteps, becoming a military pilot. After the death of his father, he told reporters choking back tears that he would always remember him "as a hero and an exemplary officer" and continue his work. The younger son also wants to become a military pilot.
Saving dozens of lives, Ryafagat never spared himself, as it was in the beginning of July in Syria. A large group of Islamic state fighters (the organization has been declared a terrorist unit and prohibited in Russia and many other countries) attacked the positions of Syrian troops and broke through the defenses. They rapidly moved inland, posing a threat to capture the commanding heights. Ryafagat’s crew was not far. Overflying Syrian Mi-25 with Lieutenant Evgeny Dolgin (some media reported that he was at the helm of the Russian Mi-35M), Habibullin decided to attack the terrorists.
"The terrorist attack was thwarted by competent actions of the Russian crew. Having spent ammunition, helicopter went to turn and was downed by the terrorists," the Ministry of Defense reported.
Colonel Habibullin have not return from a mission. But his mission is being continued by his son and dozens of trained pilots throughout Russia. Therefore, he stays alive in people's memory.
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