Indian investigative report blames pilot for CDS Rawat helicopter crash?

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A sudden change in the weather caused an Indian military helicopter to crash, in which General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defense Staff of the Indian Armed Forces, died. This was reported by the ANI Friday, citing a statement from a representative of the Indian Air Force.

The accident happened when the helicopter entered clouds during an unexpected weather change. This led to the pilot’s spatial disorientation, the Indian Air Force said.

It is reported that an investigation team made up of representatives of the three branches of the country’s armed forces will investigate the causes of the tragic helicopter crash and study flight data recorder recordings and cockpit conversations.

“Mechanical failures, sabotage or negligence are excluded as causes of the disaster,” the Indian Air Force said. Based on the survey team’s findings, a number of recommendations have been developed and will be considered to prevent similar disasters in the future.

Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, India’s Chief of Defense Staff, his wife and 11 others died in a helicopter crash (Mi-17 V5) in Tamil Nadu state , in southern India, on December 8. The Mi-17 V-5 is a military transport variant of the Mi-8/17 helicopter family.

“With deep regret, it has now been determined that General Bipin Rawat, Ms. Madhulika Rawat and 11 others on board died in the unfortunate accident,” the Indian Air Force tweeted.

An IAF Mi-17 V5 helicopter with a crew of 4 carrying CDS and 9 other passengers met with a tragic accident near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. The sole survivor is Group Captain Varun Singh. He is being treated for his injuries at Wellington Military Hospital.

Mi-17V5 Helicopter – Twitter

General Rawat was heading from the IAF station at Sulur to the Defense Services Staff College in Wellington. The helicopter crashed in a forest area, apparently due to poor visibility following heavy fog.

Defense Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted that he was deeply distressed by the sudden disappearance of CDS Rawat and the 12 others. “His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our armed forces and the country,” he said.

The Indian Air Force has already ordered an investigation into the accident. General Rawat served as the country’s first chief of defense staff, a post instituted in 2019 for better cooperation between the army, navy and air force.

Previously, he served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff between September 27, 2019 and December 31, 2019 and Army Chief of Staff between December 31, 2016 and December 31, 2019.

Mi-17 V5: a VVIP chopper

The Russian-made Mi-17 V5 is a reliable transport helicopter used by all dignitaries including the Indian President, Vice President and Prime Minister. The IAF has chosen to convert the Mi-17V5 for use as a VVIP transport helicopter in 2014.

The decision came after the government blacklisted AgustaWestland over suspicions of corruption linked to the brand new fleet of AW-101 helicopters.

AgustaWestland AW101 - Wikipedia
AgustaWestland AW101 – Wikipedia

As mentioned earlier, the Mi-17V-5 (national designation Mi-8MTV-5) is a military transport variant of the Mi-8/17 family of helicopters. The Mi-8MTV is part of the Mi-8M series, often called Mi-17 in export variants.

Mi-8 helicopters are also used by the Russian President. The scale of the Mi-8 Presidential fleet is unknown, however, at least two aircraft in the colors Grey, Red and Blue are known to exist. A similar version in bright green camouflage, which may be an army executive transport, has also been reported.

This series of helicopters was even purchased by Russia’s rival, the United States, for the former Afghan Air Force. More than 60 countries use the Russian-made Mi series helicopters.

Past errors

According to a report in The Hindu, an eyewitness who saw the helicopter crash and a policeman who reached the site said the weather was clear and there were no clouds.

The eyewitness said: – I saw that the helicopter was flying at a very low altitude. Suddenly it turned around and collided with a jackfruit tree. After that, there was a loud explosion. The weather was clear when the helicopter crashed.

Questions are raised: why was the helicopter flying at such a low altitude? Had the pilot received weather alerts from air traffic control or army control? Tamil Nadu police officials told the newspaper that the whole matter was under investigation.

The newspaper had writes in his report that the helicopter crash of the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh YS Rajasekhara Reddy took place in the mountainous region of Kurnool. The weather was then bad, but the pilot was forced to fly. The newspaper wrote that no lessons have been learned from past accidents.

the poor judgment displayed by pilots was a key cause identified by the four-member committee. They encountered a problem in the oil pressure transmission. They (the pilots) were so engaged in the emergency checklist to solve the problem for six vital minutes that they “lost situational awareness of the extremely bad weather ahead”.

However, a report stated, “The panel in the present case could find no evidence/indication in which (the) VIP interfered/influenced the planning/progress of the flight.”

The report concluded – The helicopter was not airworthy when it was approved for flight although this was not a contributing factor to the accident. However, the certificate of airworthiness was completely valid.

AP Aviation did not keep any register of the hitches to allow the analysis of the defects. Moreover, when the two engines were switched over earlier, the reasons for their removal were not recorded in the logbook demonstrating “the casual attitude of the maintenance personnel”.

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