Indian army helicopter pilots who came to Dehradun to pay last respects to the armed forces personnel killed in the IAF chopper crash at Gaurikund said inhospitable conditions in the upper reaches pushed rescue operations back by a few days.
Lieutenant Colonel Anuj Rampal of the 205 Army Aviation Squadron based at Pathankot said that they were asked to move to Uttarakhand at a short notice of two hours. “We were given the maps and coordinates for one of the most challenging assignments till date.”
These pilots were assigned sorties to Harshil and Kedarnath where the pilgrims were facing severe conditions, and it was a race against time to save them.
Rampal said that bad weather and low visibility came in the way of their mission in the upper reaches. Heavy cloud cover cut out natural light and affected proper navigation.
“We employ the latest technology in the helicopters but these are of little use in bad weather. In fact, these instruments are not meant for navigating in a bad weather zone,” he said.
Lieutenant Colonel DP Baral said the choppers had to negotiate a narrow passage to reach Kedarnath valley from Ukhimath. But, as maintenance engineer Sanjay Garola said, the conditions would not affect their mission to save more lives.