In a major fire mishap, a chopper of the Andhra Pradesh government, meant for the use of chief minister, and five other aircraft parked in a hangar of the old airport at Begumpet in Hyderabad were destroyed.
The fire broke out around last midnight and it soon engulfed the hangar resulting in complete collapse of the shed, state fire department sources said.
Residents of the nearby locality claimed explosions were also heard.
According to sources, 10 fire tenders from the state fire department and some other fire engines of the air force station at Hakimpet managed to bring the blaze under control after about three hours.
"The Augusta (Westland) helicopter of the state government and five other small aircraft of the aviation academy were destroyed in the fire. We will conduct a high-level inquiry by a senior official like (state) Home Secretary to find out the reasons for the fire and whether there is any sabotage angle etc," Ganta Srinivasa Rao, Andhra Pradesh Minister for Infrastructure and Ports told reporters in Visakhapatnam.
"The helicopter was purchased in 2009 at an approximate cost of Rs. 63 crores. Though we have insurance for it, this incident is very unfortunate. This incident occurred in a hangar in the airport. We need to bring out the truth by conducting an inquiry. Alternative arrangements will be made for chief minister’s travel," he said.
Chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, who is presently touring Visakhapatnam district as part of his ‘Indiramma Bata’ mass-contact programme, took stock of the situation and ordered a CID inquiry into the incident.
In 2008, the airport at Begumpet was closed for normal passenger services as the international airport came up at Shamshabad on city outskirts.
The Begumpet airport is now used for VIP travel besides training purposes.