Sunday 23 January 2022
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IAF chopper crash due to bad weather, not snag or sabotage

Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, who led the probe, currently serves as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Bengaluru-headquartered Training Command of the IAF

While veteran soldiers said right after the tragedy that the helicopter that crashed was the best in the category and that the flying it had been trained to fly through worse weather conditions, now the official theory is that no technical snag or sabotage and bad weather leading to a phenomenon called Controlled 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 and 13 others.

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 Wednesday.

The experts above said the investigators had ruled out any possibility of technical snag or sabotage in the crash of the Russian-origin twin-engine Mi-17V5 helicopter that was flying from Sulur airbase to Wellington on 8 December.

According to experts, the CFIT refers to a phenomenon when an aircraft under control is piloted onto the ground, water or another terrain largely due to bad weather or error.

The CFIT generally takes place in bad weather conditions or when a is landing.

There is no official comment on the probe report either by the Indian Air Force or by the defence ministry.

According to the IATA (International Air Transport Association), CFIT refers to accidents in which there was a collision with terrain, water, or obstacle, without indication of loss of control of the aircraft.

“The critical distinction in these types of accidents is the fact that the aircraft is under the control of the crew,” it said.

The Federal Aviation Administration of the US government described CFIT as an unintentional collision with terrain (the ground, a mountain, a body of water, or an obstacle) while an aircraft is under positive control.

“Most often, the or crew is unaware of the looming disaster until it is too late,” it said.

The people cited above said a sudden cloud cover could have resulted in the CFIT.

“At times, a may lose situational awareness when there is a visual disruption,” said an aviation expert.

Visuals of the helicopter captured by locals before the crash had shown that the chopper was flying at a low altitude.

The chopper had crashed around eight minutes before its scheduled landing at Wellington.

The people said the probe team examined all likely scenarios for the crash, including possible human error or whether it was a case of disorientation by the crew when the helicopter was preparing for landing.

Gen Rawat’s wife Madhulika, his defence adviser Brigadier LS Lidder, staff officer to the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt Col Harjinder Singh and decorated Group Captain Varun Singh were among 13 others killed in the crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.

Air Marshal Singh, who headed the probe team, is currently serving as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Bengaluru-headquartered Training Command of the IAF.

He is known to be one of the best air crash investigators in the country.

Before taking the reins of the Training Command, the Air Marshal was the Director General (Inspection and Safety) at the Air headquarters and developed various protocols for safety while serving in the post.

Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and a number of senior officials of the ministry were present when the IAF officials briefed the defence minister.

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