It is a rising concern about Mamata Banerjee helicopter rides following the crash that killed Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorji Khandu.
The Trinamool chief has been flying for hours to remote terrains of Jangalmahal for campaign during the assembly polls.
Party top brass has already asked the private operator to exercise caution and Banerjee herself has rested her trust on the pilot. Recently, Banerjee had to travel on car midway through the campaign, since her helicopter developed a minor snag. Party leaders in the districts have also been told to take care while preparing temporary landing spots for the helicopter in different areas, where Banerjee will be conducting public meetings.
“As a pilot, I can say that if proper maintenance is there and the pilot goes by the book, helicopters are 100% safe. But most times, pilots are under pressure flying VVIP’s. We call it VVIP syndrome, where the politician diktats the pilot to take a unsafe decision,” said Dinesh Trivedi, Trinamool leader and also a US-trained pilot.
“But in case of Mamata Banerjee, she has already made it clear that the pilot is the boss and he is free to take any decision regarding the flight. In this way she is very cautious,” said Trivedi. Memories of helicopter crash of Madhav Rao Scindia, YSR Reddy are yet sharp in people’s memory. “I knew the pilot of Scindia. He was under pressure,” said Trivedi.
According to Trinamool sources, senior leaders of the party had a talk with the private operator of the helicopter was briefed about the security aspect. Moreover, Banerjee’s security officers have also inspected the helicopters she is flying on.
Banerjee was flying on a BEL 412 helicopter, which developed a snag on the Rooter blades in East Midnapore. Thereafter she is using EC-135. The helicopter can fly for 3 hours fully loaded and has VIP configuration built in with club seats. On an average she is visiting five to six places per day for campaigning.
According to experts, there are various reasons for a crash. “Instrumental error, pilot error and weather are the prime causes of a crash. However, the modern helicopter Banerjee is travelling in is maintained well. The cause of caution is inclement weather and dust storms in Purulia and Bankura, where she lands frequently on hurriedly made landing spots,” said Partha Pratim Dutta Majumder of Aerotech Aerospace Services, a company that gives choppers on rent.