Raje govt finds no takers for jinxed Agusta chopper

  • Rashpal Singh, Hindustan Times, Jaipur
  • Updated: Aug 13, 2015 21:28 IST
A file photo of an AgustaWestland helicopter. (HT File Photo)

The Rajasthan government is struggling to find buyers for an Agusta helicopter which has been grounded since 2011 following a technical glitch during a flight with former chief minister Ashok Gehlot on board.

The twin-engine A109E power helicopter with an in-built bar-refrigerator – and meant to ferry VVIPs -- was procured during the previous tenure of Vasundhara Raje as the chief minister at a cost of Rs 20 crore from Italian firm AgustaWestland.

Last year, India had scrapped a Rs 3600-crore VVIP helicopter deal with the company following allegations of payment of kickbacks to the tune of Rs 360 crore.

Officials said that the directorate of civil aviation on Tuesday issued notice for fresh auction of the flying machine along with spares and tools.

The auction will be held on September 8, Sunil Bhati of the directorate of civil aviation said.

An earlier auction bid on July 22 this year had failed to draw even a single buyer, according to government sources.

Sources in the government admitted that the chopper has earned the tag of being jinxed after it suffered the technical glitch in November 2011 with then chief minister Ashok Gehlot and other people were on board.

Though the two pilots managed to land the chopper safely, it was later found that the main rotor of the helicopter was damaged during the flight.

An official investigation had pointed to poor maintenance of the machine as the cause of accident.

“The machine is considered jinxed ever since it hazarded the life of the former CM. The present CM never gave a thought of travelling in this helicopter and it is stranded at the state hanger,” said a senior official seeking anonymity.

Since the incident, the chopper has not flown any VIP and has been switched on only twice for technical check-up.

The deal had come under scanner in June, 2013 with the defence ministry seeking details of the deal.

Earlier, the Comptroller and Auditor General had also pointed out “irregularities and procedural lapses in the deal that caused a loss of at least Rs 1.14 crore to the state exchequer.”

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