Honour for UK RAF pilot who skilfully avoided bus while evacuating Kabul airport

Group Capt Kevin Latchman took off from pitch-black runway after power cut and averted fatal crash by forcing plane up early

Group Captain Kevin Latchman of the Royal Air Force after being decorated with the Air Force Cross for leadership and bravery. PA
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An RAF pilot who skilfully avoided a bus by three metres while flying refugees out of Afghanistan in August last year has said receiving an honour for his actions is “awesome”.

A devastating suicide bomb had been detonated at Kabul airport before Group Capt Kevin Latchman attempted to carry 365 people on board a C-17 plane.

Amid the “chaotic scene”, Group Capt Latchman made the decision to take off from a pitch-black runway following a power cut, narrowly missing the bus that had driven into their path.

On Thursday, he was given the Air Force Cross for leadership and bravery by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace.

Group Capt Latchman told the PA news agency: “Receiving the honour today was fantastic, it's really nice to be recognised for something like that and I recognise it was a team effort.

“Everything about Operation Pitting was a team effort and I ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but did the right thing.

“It was amazing to see the Prince of Wales today and have the family here, it's quite awesome, I've never been through the front gates of Buckingham Palace before and I may not ever do it again.

“I spoke to the Prince of Wales about the incident itself, he was aware of the incident and I spoke to him about my decision-making, what happened.”

Operation Pitting was a British military operation to evacuate British nationals and eligible Afghans from the country following the Taliban takeover last August.

Group Capt Latchman had made the decision to force the plane into the air early.

He added: “What was running through my head at the time was actually that clear decision-making process, it was quite instinctive.

“It was quite clear I couldn't stop, it was quite clear I couldn't get to my speed, so we were left with one option.

“The enormity of it hit in later once we were at a height, and that's when the shock kicked in.”

Kabul airport blast — in pictures

Updated: October 13, 2022, 3:08 PM