The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) of the Sukhoi-30 MKI that crashed on October 14 near Pune, leading to the grounding of 200 Russian-origin fighter jets, stopped recording pilot communications minutes before the crash, said a top government official familiar with the investigation.
The glitch has further deepened the mystery surrounding the crash, the fifth accident involving a Su-30 during the last five years. The official said there was no record of conversations in the cockpit at least five minutes before the crash as the tape had run out.
The development is significant as the pilots of the fighter plane had reported an unprecedented “automatic seat ejection” without their command, but the Russian specialists assisting the probe have ruled out the freak ejection theory.
IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Simranpal Singh Birdi said the air force had received some inputs from Russian experts but refused to comment on the CVR data or the ejection controversy, saying a probe was still on.
HT was the first to report on October 22 that the IAF had grounded its entire Su-30 fleet after the pilots reported a freak ejection where seats fired on their own. The planes, which represent a third of India’s fighter fleet, are still grounded for safety checks on ejection seats.
CVR data plays a vital role in reconstructing the events leading to a crash. The Su-30 that crashed on October 14 was one of the 50 fighter jets imported directly from Russia in flyaway condition. Recent crashes have raised serious questions about the flight safety of one of the most advanced and relatively new fighters in the Indian fleet. The first variants of the plane were inducted in late 1990s.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited assembles and repairs the fighters in India.
The IAF’s Su-30 planes are grappling with problems concerning repair and overhaul, mid-air engine failures and malfunctioning of mission computers and cockpit displays. Each fighter costs over Rs 200 crore. The IAF has lost over 35 planes and choppers to crashes during the last three years.