Two pilots were killed when a six-seater Punjab government aircraft crashed into an abandoned mill here, a few metres from the Amritsar-Delhi national highway, on Wednesday morning.
Capt Dalip Kataria, who hailed from Delhi, and his co-pilot Manjit Singh Khokar, a resident of Panchkula in Haryana, averted a bigger tragedy by steering the plane away from the nearby industrial area after it developed a technical snag.
It was only three weeks ago that the Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued the Beechcraft C-90 King airworthiness certificate. It has set up a team to look into the crash.
The airplane, which had remained grounded for several years, had taken off from Chandigarh at 10.50 a.m. for the mandatory test flight “before a VIP trip”. Civil aviation secretary Vishawjeet Khanna said early investigation indicated that the plane developed a technical fault minutes before it was to land at the Sahnewal airport, 2km from the crash site.
The pilots didn’t send out a distress call to the Air Traffic Controller at Sahnewal airport, Ludhiana SSP R.K. Jaiswal said.
According to eyewitnesses, one of the crew had tried to jump off. The locals, who saw the plane lose height, said they heard a pilot yell for help. “I heard pilot’s screams for help. One of his legs was hanging out and he appeared stuck,” Ashish, owner of the unit next to the mill, said.
“There was a lot of noise, but from his gestures, we could tell he was asking us to keep away as the plane was about to crash,” Chaman Lal, a factory worker, told HT.