India’s aviation regulator has grounded several helicopters, including the two used by the state government to ferry the chief minister, for not installing emergency locater transmitters (ELT).
ELT is a satellite-based radio beacon used to track choppers when they go missing.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has also clipped the wings of 70 per cent of choppers and charter plane operators based out of the Juhu Aerodrome for failing to adhere to the safety requirement.
According to a circular issued after the tragic death of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Chandrashekhar Reddy in a chopper crash last year, the DGCA made it mandatory for non-scheduled operators to install the ELT device by January 25.
Investigations in the YSR crash that killed five people revealed that the chopper crashed due to pilot error and did not have the back up safety frequency required for rescue operations.
“Aircraft and helicopters without ELT cannot operate,” said a senior DGCA official requesting anonymity, as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
Confirming that the state governments’ choppers had been grounded, State Civil Aviation secretary S.S. Thakre said: “We have placed an order for the equipment but have not received it yet.”
Thakre said the instrument was not a safety device but is used to record what happens in the aircraft. “The state’s helicopter has two separate instruments for the same but the DGCA wanted an integrated instrument. We are in the process of fitting it,” he added.
ELTs were made mandatory by the DGCA in 2005. However, the regulator did not enforce it until the YSR crash.
The state-owned Pawan Hans Helicopter Limited and a private charter company, Global Vectra, are among the few companies whose fleets are completely ELT-compliant.
Some operators, who sent a petition to the DGCA asking for an extension have got a breather until March 31. “We are trying to get it done by the end of February,” said Arun Lohiya, chief executive officer, Bafna Air, a city-based private charter company.
The Juhu aerodrome in Mumbai accounts for 75 per cent of helicopter traffic in the country followed by Delhi and Pune.