Chopper crash off Mumbai coast: ‘Helicopter could have broken in the air’
Vouching for the expertise of the two pilots, Mumbai officials said this was the chopper’s first flight after it underwent a major routine maintenance repair after completing 500 hours of flyingmumbai Updated: Jan 14, 2018 01:24 IST
Even as the reasons for the Pawan Hans helicopter crash that occurred on Saturday morning are yet to be investigated, senior pilots said it was likely to have been the result of a major technical error and not the fault of the pilots. They said helicopters are usually on autopilot mode when they fly over the site where the chopper crashed.
“As the helicopter is on autopilot mode during that stretch, the chances of a pilot making an error are nil. The pilot just needs to set the speed, based on which the aircraft flies. There is no darkness or disorientation, unless there is a mechanical issue. If the pilot recognises the problem, then he immediately informs the controllers and declares an emergency. But, if he is unable to the declare an emergency, this means that something happened too quickly for him to react. It seems that the aircraft either broke in the air or lost a critical path, after which it went out of control,” said a senior private operator pilot.
Vouching for the expertise of the two dead pilots, officials said this was the chopper’s first flight after it underwent a major routine maintenance repair after completing 500 hours of flying.
Officials said a 15-day-long detailed check of the machine was done and was approved to resume flying after a ground check was completed on Friday.
Senior Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) officials said this is the 21st serious accident — involving a loss of lives and helicopters — since the inception of Pawan Hans, 31 years ago.
“Till the inquiry report is released, the exact reason for the crash cannot be ascertained. Dauphin is one of the safest helicopters and has a low count of fatal accidents globally. However, it seems as though its floatation gears didn’t deploy, which is surprising. Floatation gears work on two systems — in one, the pilot deploys them and if he is unable to do so owing to a lack of time, they are in deployed automatically after the helicopter hits either the ground or water. That the floatation gears did not work points to either a human or technical error. If the gears worked, then lives would have not been lost.,” said ex Air Force pilot and aviation expert Vipul Saxena.
“ Pawan Hans has been under scrutiny for poor maintenance records over the past decade despite being under the patronage of the aviation regulator and civil aviation ministry, which are the hallmark of Indian aviation safety standards,” he said.
In October 2016, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had given in-principle approval for strategic disinvestment of Pawan Hans Limited. Senior officials alleged that since then, the service provider has not been buying spare parts for the helicopters.
The Pawan Hans spokesperson did not respond to the paper’s request for comment.