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How safe is Bell 430

Pilots who have flown the Bell 430, the helicopter that carried Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S R Reddy before it crashed on Thursday, say these are among the safest flying machines produced.

delhi Updated: Sep 03, 2009 16:31 IST
Samiran Saha

Pilots who have flown the Bell 430, the helicopter that carried Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S R Reddy before it crashed on Thursday, say these are among the safest flying machines produced.

When Reddy's helicopter was first used by the Andhra Pradesh government it was among the first helicopters in the country that could be fly at night. The Bell 430 is designed for nearly all weather conditions and can handle turbulence.

“It is a very modern day machine, equipped with the best on board navigation instruments, and has had a sterling track record of safety," a pilot who has flown this very helicopter told Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity. "This is possibly the first of the Bell 430s that we have lost contact with.”

“What intrigues me is the Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) in the helicopter did not work,” the pilot said.

An ELT is a beacon that helicopters must instal. It is activated on impact and sends out signals for at least 78 hours on three frequently used radio frequencies, which can be picked up by a satellite as well.

The transmitter can work under sea, in extremely high and low temperatures, as low as –20 degrees Celsius.

Some pilots said that despite regular checks the ELT sometimes does not work.

Why might that be? “There is some degree of discrepancy between practice and implementation of standard operating procedures," said a pilot.

He said the transmitter may not have been switched on, the batteries may have been drained.

“If it has failed to switch on on impact, then I think the batteries could be suspect,” the pilot said.