Red faces in IAF over snag in Antony’s copter


It could have proved much worse but defence minister A K Antony was fortunate enough to escape with just a mild sunstroke. Two Mi-17 helicopters deployed to ferry Antony and his high-level entourage to forward areas in Rajasthan developed technical snags, one after the other, on Monday.

Already grappling with a resurgent crash rate, with close to 50 fighter and helicopter accidents being recorded just since 2007, the fact that technical problems can dog even VVIP flights has come as a major embarrassment to IAF.
“Fortunately, the rotor and power-pack problems took place while the helicopters were on the ground. If they had occurred in the air, it would have been curtains for the passengers…helicopters, after all, drop like stones,” said a source.

IAF, however, tried to downplay the episode, holding that there was “no need to order a full-scale inquiry” since they were “just some minor technical problems in starting the helicopters”. Added another officer. “Sometimes in hot weather, the battery does not give optimal power… it does not mean there is something wrong with the helicopter.”
The Antony episode, however, comes in the backdrop of a spate in helicopter crashes around the country, including the one which killed Arunachal Pradesh CM Dorjee Khandu. Incidentally, Antony’s entourage included Army chief General V K Singh and defence secretary Pradeep Kumar, among others.

The two main reasons for crashes in IAF, both for fighters and helicopters, are attributed to “human errors” and “technical defects”. In other words, “inadequate” training to pilots, ageing machines, shoddy maintenance practices and lack of adequate number of spares all come together to form an explosive mix. Just last year, IAF recorded a dozen crashes, which killed five pilots, 11 military personnel and four civilians.

Sources said while the flight of the two Mi-17s from Jaisalmer to Tanot went off fine, the problems began on the way back. First, one of the helicopters developed the technical snag, leaving the “less important” among the passengers to take to the road back to Jaisalmer.

Then, the second Mi-17, which was supposed to take Antony and the other VVIPs to the airport from the Jaisalmer military station also refused to start. This time, Antony and the others had no recourse but to travel by cars to the airport to take the plane back to New Delhi.

Antony did not attend office on Wednesday as he was “slightly indisposed” after his hectic Rajasthan tour, which took place in blistering heat. The 71-year-old minister also has to conserve his energy for his three-day visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar beginning Saturday.

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Posted by pilotpaul on May 5 2011. Filed under All News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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