New Delhi: Indian Air Force (IAF) transport helicopter Mi-17V-5 crashed on Wednesday killing Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 other Defence officials onboard. The accident happened near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu, the IAF said. Group Captain Varun Singh, injured in the crash, is currently under treatment at Military Hospital in Wellington.
The Mi-17V-5, a military transport variant in the Mi-8/17 family of helicopters produced by Kazan Helicopters, is one of the world’s most advanced transport helicopters. Talking about the Mi-series choppers, which are considered ‘safe’, Group Captain Narang told India Ahead‘s Smita Sharma: “Various versions of the Mi17 aircraft are being flown by the Indian Air Force for decades. It’s not just used for flying the VIPs, but used for various purposes and also flown in Siachen. So, it’s a very reliable aircraft. There is no known history of this aircraft running into snags or technical glitches. It’s a fairly safe aircraft.”
So, the question arises: what went wrong? Was the Mi-17V-5 chopper fully fit to fly or is it just a straightforward case of bad weather or a human error that ultimately led to the crash?
Speaking to India Ahead Editor-in-Chief Bhupendra Chaubey, former MGAOC Central Command Major Gen Rajan Kochar pointed out that the helicopter was being flown by a senior and highly experienced Wing Commander and the possibility of the pilot making an error seems unlikely. “Possibilities are about the weather as has been pointed out by your channel. The third aspect is that I would not rule out the sabotage point.”
Lieutenant General PJS Pannu, former deputy chief of Indian Integrated Defence Staff, said that an “unusual thing has happened” and such a deparature from the set procedures takes place “only when there is a bad weather condition or there is a technical snag.”
Explaining a possible reason behind the crash in the tricky rolling hills of the Nilgiris, Lt Gen Pannu said, “He possibly could not see the dividing line between the sky and the hills. Probably, he got into an area where he might have been surprised. And if he was flying very fast, he could not have just recovered.”
“The GPS, of course, is there. They use the GPS, but it only tells you where to go or the altitude,” he said.
On the question of the helicopter going out of control, he said, “The machine may not have gone out of control. I think it just headed into an obstacle the pilot could not see. The helicopter could be flying anywhere between 2000-3000 ft depending on which route he was taking. He possibly got stuck in a valley and got surprised because of the bad weather and bad visibility and just hit an obstacle. It could even be a wire actually. There are a number of power lines crisscrossing the area.”
Meanwhile, dismissing the possibility of a conspiracy and calling out other Army men speculating the reasons behind the crash, Ex-Deputy Director Centre for Air Power Studies AVM (Retd) Kapil Kak said, “Let us wait for the location of digital flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder. Those two instruments will give us everything from the conversation between the pilots, every single parameter of the flight that was recorded at the time of the crash.”
The former officer also prayed for the recovery of the sole survivor of the tragic incident, Group Captain Varun Singh, whose input will provide the complete picture of how the events unfolded.
WATCH: Grp Capt Narang On MI-Series Chopper; What Went Wrong With CDS Rawat’s Chopper? | People’s Editor