Was it possible that the air crash on Wednesday could have been avoided and 10 lives saved if the aircraft in question were a jet engine airliner instead of a single engine turbo prop? Experts definitely feel so.
The Pilatus PC-12 aircraft — which crashed on Wednesday at Parvatiya Colony in Faridabad — was a single engine turbo prop. A turbo prop engine uses a gas turbine to drive a propeller, unlike a much more powerful jet engine. It has lesser cruising speed than a jet and flies only on lower altitude. While an airliner with jet engine can fly much above 30,000 feet — above cloud level avoiding adverse weather conditions — a small aircraft flies through the weather.
On Wednesday, around 10.30pm, Delhi NCR was experiencing a storm with 60 kmph winds. The met department had issued an advisory that weather was bad around 100 nautical miles of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, making landing at the airport difficult.
RK Jenamani, director-in-charge, IGIA met unit said weather conditions on Wednesday evening were not suited for small aircraft. "The pre-monsoon clouds are severe for smaller aircraft compared to monsoon clouds. Bigger aircraft have exponentially better engines and are more equipped to deal with such weather as they have more equipment and carry more fuel to take long detours and avoid bad weather," he said.
He said the updraft and downdraft created by hot weather results in heavy turbulence for small aircraft, which is why the aircraft was constantly vacillating between different altitudes on Wednesday.
"Single engine aircraft are bad during this kind of weather from safety perspective," said Kapil Kaul, CEO, Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation. "However, in case of chartered aircraft, several times customers put pressure on the pilot to move despite adverse weather."
Kaul said that despite a spurt in general aviation in the country, the sector is under-addressed, both from a regulatory and a policy perspective.
"Small aircraft are definitely more prone to turbulence than bigger aircraft, which are more stable and can better negotiate bad weather," said K Sridharan, President, Rotary Wing Society of India.