The tri-services court of inquiry has ruled out mechanical failure behind the helicopter crash on 8 December that killed India’s first Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat. In an investigation report on the crash, the panel said that the accident was a result of entry into clouds due to unexpected changes in weather conditions. This led to “spatial disorientation of the pilot resulting in Controlled Flight into Terrain”.
The report on the preliminary findings has ruled out sabotage or negligence as a cause of the accident.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) said in a formal statement that the panel probing the crash of the Mi-17 V5 helicopter analysed the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder while also questioning all available witnesses to determine the most probable cause of the accident. It also made certain recommendations that are being reviewed, the IAF statement said.
Gen Rawat, along with his wife and 12 others, including a crew of four, were on-board the helicopter that took off from the Sulur airbase in Tamil Nadu for the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, where Rawat was to deliver a lecture.
However, the helicopter crashed about 10 km from its destination in a hilly area in cloudy conditions. All 14 onboard lost their lives. The deaths of Rawat, his wife and 11 others were confirmed by the IAF the same day, while the only crash survivor died in a hospital about a week later.
Earlier, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari and Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, who headed the tri-service investigation into the crash, apprised Defence Minister Rajnath Singh of the findings of the probe on 6 January.
While veteran soldiers said right after the tragedy that the helicopter that crashed was the best in the category and that the pilot flying it had been trained to fly through worse weather conditions, now the official theory is that no technical snag or sabotage or bad weather leading to a phenomenon called Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) is believed to have been identified as the prime reason for the crash of the IAF helicopter near Coonoor that killed CDS Gen Bipin Rawat and 13 others.