Pawan Hans Helicopter Limited (PHHL), in whose chopper Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu took off from Tawang on Saturday before it went missing, has refuted allegations of operating an old fleet of helicopters in the northeastern state.
"Our Eurocopter Ecureuil AS 350 B3 helicopter was not old. In fact, it joined the fleet just four months ago and was in the best possible technical condition as it was used by VIPs in the state," a PHHL official posted at its Itanagar base told IANS.
According to the official, the new chopper which is technically one of the most advanced in the world, had to face bad and unpredictable weather conditions in the area where it was flying.
"Ecureuil is one of the most advanced helicopters in the world, but weather conditions are a huge factor in operation and it is known that the weather over that area was very bad," said the official
Mystery surrounded the whereabouts of Khandu's chopper Saturday, with official claims in Arunachal Pradesh that it had been traced to Bhutan denied and no news about the chopper till late evening.
Bhutan till late Saturday denied any Indian helicopter had landed in its territory.
The helicopter took off from Tawang at 9.50 a.m. and was expected to land in Itanagar, the state capital, at 11.30 a.m.
According to Arunachal MP Takam Sanjay, the chopper lost communication with the ground control staff after it flew past the Sela Pass along the Chinese border.
The helicopter had two pilots and three passengers on board, including the chief minister and his personal security officer. The third passenger, a woman named Lamu, is said to be a relative of Dorjee.
On April 19, a PHHL chopper crashed in Tawang, killing 17 people and injuring six.
The PHHL has been operating five helicopters across Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura and daily Guwahati-Tawang service for the past nine years. It is one of the major lifelines of landlocked Arunachal Pradesh.