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Bareilly: Three officers killed in army chopper crash

An army helicopter on Wednesday crashed moments after taking off from an airbase in Bareilly, killing the two pilots and an engineer.

india Updated: Oct 01, 2014 21:06 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times

Three army officers were killed on Wednesday after their Cheetah helicopter crashed shortly after taking off from a Bareilly airbase in Uttar Pradesh.

Sources said technical problems may have led to the fatal crash, which has focused attention on the army’s ageing fleet of helicopters and raised serious questions about flight safety.

Pilots Major Abhijai Thapa, Captain Avinash Somavanshi and flight engineer Major Vikas Varyani were killed in the mishap.

More than 40 years old, Cheetah and Chetak helicopters are the mainstay of the army’s aviation wing. The ageing fleet has been plagued by issues relating to maintenance and spares, but efforts to modernise the army’s aviation wing have not produced results yet.

The helicopters play a crucial role in supporting the army’s deployments in forward areas, including the Siachen glacier.

India had in August scrapped a Rs 6,000-crore project to import light utility helicopters (LUH) for the army and the air force to replace the ageing French-origin helicopters used in high-altitude areas.

The defence acquisition council (DAC), headed by defence minister Arun Jaitley, decided that the helicopters would now be in produced in India in joint venture with a foreign firm. European and Russian vendors were eyeing the LUH contract.

The LUH tender was scrapped for the second time in seven years. It had been on hold for the last two years, with the CBI investigating the role of a brigadier who had allegedly sought a bribe from AgustaWestland to swing the deal in its favour. The firm, however, was eliminated in the early stages of the contract, leaving only Eurocopter and Kamov in the fray.

The Cheetah is the second military helicopter to have crashed after taking off from the Bareilly airbase in less than three months. Seven IAF personnel were killed on July 25 after their advanced light helicopter, also called Dhruv, crashed near Sitapur.

First Published: Oct 01, 2014 10:42 IST